By Mark Etheridge
Wayde ‘#WaydeDreamer’ van Niekerk has one less goal to dream about after his 19.94-second African and personal best 200-metre race in Switzerland this week.
‘Every year since I started running the 200m I’ve crossed the line hoping that the clock shows 19,’ he told Road to Rio 2016.
‘This time it did and I’m truly thankful for that, so it was actually more a good feeling of breaking a barrier than a surprise… I’ve been working on getting it for a long time now.
‘It’s always been something I set for myself, since the day I started the sport.’
Can he improve on that time? ‘Well it was a 19, so in that particular race I don’t think it could be any more perfect because now I KNOW I can do it and that barrier is now something of the past. Obviously there’s always something you can improve on but I believe with the experience and my growth as a person as well as an athlete I’ll be able to improve every year.’
One of only four men in the history of track athletics to have broken 20sec for 200m and 44sec for the 400m, Van Niekerk will be able to do a bit of juggling going forward. He’s never made a secret of the fact that the former distance is his most comfortable and liked.
‘It’s always been in my plans, not only this year but ever since I started track.
‘The 400m is my main focus for now, but yes I’ll always favour the 200m and even the 100m over the 400m because that’s where my love for the sport started. But right now I’m in a good place in the 400m and I’d love to keep focused on the duty at hand, especially at World Championships, because my first priority is to my best at my own event before I consider the relays.’
Between now and World Championships in Beijing, China, there’s not a whole lot left for Van Niekerk. ‘I’ve got one more race now, the Diamond League in London next weekend and then I’ll switch off for a few days… then it’s all out for Beijing.’
The saying often goes that behind every great man there’s an even greater woman and Van Niekerk fully accepts this.
Coach Ans Botha in Bloemfontein is very rarely in the limelight, instead letting her athletes do the shining.
‘Tannie Ans is an absolute pleasure to work with. She’s really a tough coach at times and very big on discipline, which I really favour because it’s good to have that when it comes to working hard everyday.
‘I know we both have our pros and cons, but overall I couldn’t ask for a better coach – she really always puts us first as athletes and is always willing to put in that extra effort in for us which I truly appreciate, our personalities go along well and she knows how to handle me, which is really important, I think.
‘So I’m truly grateful and blessed to call her my coach.’
One dream may have been realised but is that it for now?
‘Ha-ha… no there are still more dreams’
The world is waiting to see just how big they are.