Wayde goes gold
WAYDE VAN NIEKERK
by Daniel Mothowagae in Beijing,
“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.
GOLDEN BOY Wayde van Niekerk shows off his gold medal on the winners’ podium during the medal ceremony for the men’s 400m final