Van Niekerk another headliner for Racers Grand Prix


Van Niekerk another headliner for Racers Grand Prix

Sunday, May 14, 2017

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Despite coming to pay homage to the great Usain Bolt at the JN Racers Grand Prix next month, South African star Wayde van Niekerk plans an assault on his idol's 100-metre and 200-metre world records.Van Niekerk, who broke the 400m world record clocking 43.03 seconds at the Rio Olympic Games last year, is the only man in history to break 44 seconds for the 400m, 20 seconds for the 200m and 10 seconds for the 100m. His 100m and 200m personal bests are 9.98 and 19.94, respectively.

Those are well off Bolt's world records of 9.58 and 19.19.

Prior to the first staging of the Racers Grand Prix in 2016, van Niekerk trained with Bolt before capturing a crack 300m event in 31.03 seconds while beating Americans Lashawn Merritt (31.23) and Tony McQuay (31.64). He went on to demolish Michael Johnson's 400m record of 43.18.

Van Niekerk has looked awesome this season with a world leading 19.90 in the 200m set on April 22, and is the seventh fastest over the 100m with 10.04.

In a recent interview with The Times, van Niekerk said: “I am a 100, 200 and 400 athlete, so [I] will dream for every record there is. What sort of an athlete would I be if I didn't? Speed is why I do track and field. I love going fast. That's where my alter ego takes over. I live for speed. That's the draw for me.”

The South African will once again grace Jamaican soil at Racers Grand Prix as he plans to achieve the unique 200m and 400m double at the World Championships in London in August.

His management team has already written to the IAAF council requesting a shift in the schedule to accommodate the star athelete.

The current schedule at the World Championship has the 200m first round taking place about two and a half hours before the 400m final.

It's not the first time that such a request has been made as it was done to accommodate American super stars Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix.

Van Niekerk, 24, was born in Cape Town and attended Bellville Primary and Grey College before going on to study marketing at University of the Free State.

He made his international debut at the 2010 World Junior Championship where he placed fourth in the 200m with a personal best time of 21.02 seconds.

He was also a part of the 4x100m relay team. His senior breakthrough came at the age of 18 at the 2011 South African Championship when he won the 200m title in a new personal best of 20.57 seconds

Then in 2012 he began to show interest in the 400m, clocking 46.43 seconds. By 2013, van Niekerk's won the second national title of his career over that distance at the 2013 South African Championships and the rest is history.

Van Niekerk is the cousin of South African rugby player Cheslin Kolbe. He first started using his speed while playing rugby in junior school in Cape Town alongside Kolbe. More than 12 years later, they were both in the South African Olympic Team in Rio with Kolbe playing in the Sevens.

— Howard Walker

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