by Mark Babatunde, at 09:00 am, August 04, 2017, Sports

6 Facts About Wayde Van Niekerk, South African Runner Who Bolt Crowned Successor

Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt announced that he will be quitting track after the 2017 World Athletics Championships, which start in London Friday.

Ahead of his retirement, Bolt has been sharing his insight on which athlete he thinks has what it takes to succeed him as the king of the track.

According to Bolt, Wayde Van Niekerk, the 25-year-old South African sprinter who won gold in the men’s 400m event at the Rio Olympics, is the one athlete most likely to wear the crown in the coming years.

Van Niekerk is proving to be a world star; he’s proven that he can step up to the plate,” Bolt told the BBC about the relatively unknown South African.

Here on Face2Face Africa we’ve compiled a list of six details you probably didn’t know about the next global superstar in athletics.

1) He Set a New 400m World Record Time at the Rio Olympics

Wayde Van Niekerk

Photo credit: IOL

Van Niekerk won the gold medal in the 400m event at the 2016 Summer Olympics with an incredible world record time of 43.03 seconds, smashing Michael Johnson‘s previous record which had stood for 17 years.

2) He Competes in Several Categories

Wayde Van Niekerk

Photo credit: Oudtshoorn Courant

Van Niekerk competes and excels in several short distance categories, including the 100m, 200m, and 400m.

On March 12, 2016, he became the 107th athlete to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m, and he is currently the only athlete in history to have run the 100m in under 10 seconds, the 200m in under 20 seconds, and the 400m in under 44 seconds.

3) He Is a University Graduate

Jamaica’s sprint icon Usain Bolt (left) works out with South Africa’s 400m World champion Wayde Van Niekerk (centre) and 2015 World University Games 100m champion Akani Simbine June 6, 2016, at the University of the West Indies track

Jamaica’s sprint icon Usain Bolt (left) works out with South Africa’s 400m World champion Wayde Van Niekerk (centre) and 2015 World University Games 100m champion Akani Simbine June 6, 2016, at the University of the West Indies track. Photo credit: Bryan Cummings

Van Niekerk studied Marketing at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. Before that he attended Bellville Primary and Grey College, where he first caught the eye of athletic coaches for his incredible speed while playing rugby.

4) He Is a Devout Christian

 

A devout Bible-believing Christian, Van Kerk never misses out on an opportunity to profess his strong faith in God. His running shoes often carry the inscription: “Jesus, I’m all yours. Use me.” And after his record-breaking 400m victory in Rio, he tweeted the above.

5) His Coach Is a 75-Year-Old Great-Grandmother

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 15: Wayde van Niekerk (gold medallist and new world record holder) and Tannie Ans Botha (coach) during a media conference with South African media on Day 10 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Olympic Stadium on August 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 15: Wayde van Niekerk (gold medallist and new world record holder) and Tannie Ans Botha (coach) during a media conference with South African media on Day 10 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Olympic Stadium on August 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo credit: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

Van Niekerk is coached by 75-year-old Ans Botha, a great-grandmother known as “Tannie” – Afrikaans for “Auntie” – by her pupils.

Van Niekerk met Botha in 2012, when he was still a 20-year-old amateur prone to nagging injuries, and combined his feats on the track with his studies at the University of the Free State.

6) First Man To Win the Olympic 400m from Lane 8

With his 400m success in Rio, Van Niekerk became the first and only man to have won the Olympic or World 400 meters from Lane 8: usually runners in this lane are at a disadvantage due to the staggered start.

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