Wayde goes gold

CityPress - - Front Page -

WAYDE VAN NIEK­ERK

by Daniel Mothowagae in Bei­jing,

China

“I have more than 110 What­sApp mes­sages, but I have al­ready sent a mes­sage to my girl­friend,” he says.

We are talk­ing in the early hours of Thurs­day morn­ing af­ter the 23-year-old ath­lete’s dis­charge from a lo­cal hos­pi­tal, where he had re­ceived med­i­cal ob­ser­va­tion for ex­haus­tion a few min­utes af­ter he blew away the field in the 400m fi­nal race of the World Cham­pi­onships.

But for those who know him well, Van Niek­erk be­comes a hos­pi­tal case each time he runs a good race – he even throws up.

His coach, Anna “Tan­nie Ans” Botha (73), un­der­stands her charge bet­ter.

“When he goes into a race like that, he ab­so­lutely gives it his all,” she says.

“For me and him, it’s nor­mal, even though he fights the thought of not throw­ing up – his team-mates call it ‘call­ing Ge­orge’. He gets very nau­seous af­ter he runs fast races.” Van Niek­erk doesn’t eat much on race days ei­ther. “I keep it light – I just nib­ble on nuts and fruits, and drink wa­ter and juice to hy­drate,” he says. Off the track, our golden boy is not a tjat­jarag type. “I try to keep my cir­cle small. I’m the kind of guy who is al­ways train­ing and never have time to go out a lot. I don’t have time for chilla days.”

It is only dur­ing his trav­els in Europe that he shows his other side – his ad­dic­tion to shoes.

He blames this ad­dic­tion on his na­tional team-mate and his room­mate in Bei­jing, Akani Sim­bine.

“I bought six or seven pairs and I am busy set­ting up a cab­i­net at home just for my shoes. My mother still has more shoes than I do,” chuck­les the South African cham­pion, who runs in size 9 spikes.

Van Niek­erk is in a sta­ble re­la­tion­ship with his girl­friend, who, like Wayde, is also a dreamer.

“I make time for my girl­friend to make her feel im­por­tant and wanted in my life. I feel happy with my re­la­tion­ship and set­tled. She also has her own dreams and goals that I sup­port. She is a master’s stu­dent in so­ci­ol­ogy and that’s quite a big deal for some­one who is 23,” he says.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

GOLDEN BOY Wayde van Niek­erk shows off his gold medal on the win­ners’ podium dur­ing the medal cer­e­mony for the men’s 400m fi­nal

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