Wayde’s fam­ily basks in the glory of his IAAF sprints

CityPress - - News -

At home in Kraai­fontein in Cape Town, Sophia van Niek­erk re­ceived the best 68th birth­day gift a granny could ask for: sil­ver and gold medals for her fleet-footed grand­son Wayde.

The South African cham­pion once again stole hearts and head­lines at the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Athletics Fed­er­a­tions (IAAF) World Championships in London in the UK this week.

Van Niek­erk and her hus­band, Wa­then, were glued to their TV on Thurs­day night as Wayde clinched sil­ver, fin­ish­ing sec­ond to Ramil Guliyev from Turkey in the 200m fi­nal at London’s Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park.

This followed Wayde’s third global 400m ti­tle on Tues­day night, when he stormed to vic­tory in 43.98 sec­onds.

Van Niek­erk turned 68 last Fri­day. Speak­ing to City Press this Fri­day morn­ing, she poured cold wa­ter on the con­tro­versy around Wayde’s 400m gold.

Botswana’s Isaac Mak­wala ac­cused the athletics world gov­ern­ing body of un­fairly keep­ing him in quar­an­tine on Tues­day night, paving the way for Wayde’s win. There had been an out­break of the norovirus bug at Mak­wala’s ho­tel in London.

“I felt a bit up­set about th­ese re­marks about favouritism,” said Van Niek­erk.

“Wayde has worked re­ally hard and that’s why peo­ple like him … Mak­wala is a good ath­lete, but that was an ugly re­mark.”

In a BBC Sports in­ter­view af­ter the 200m race on Thurs­day, Wayde broke down into sobs, say­ing he felt he had been dis­re­spected.

“I worked just as hard as ev­ery other com­peti­tor … I don’t think I got the re­spect I de­served af­ter I won the 400 me­tres,” he said.

But he ended the in­ter­view on a pos­i­tive note: “I be­lieve this is the be­gin­ning of so much more I can achieve. I will put in more hard work and show my dom­i­nance.”

Fans from around the world took to Twit­ter to show their sup­port for the South African cham­pion.

The Kraai­fontein-born-and-raised sprinter was in the me­dia spot­light af­ter global athletics su­per­star Usain Bolt, who re­tires this week­end, tipped him as his suc­ces­sor be­fore the championships. Asked who might re­place him, Bolt said: “I think Wayde is do­ing a pretty good job.”

On Fri­day, Van Niek­erk said she was still wait­ing for her post-race mes­sage from her 25-year-old grand­son, but he was un­der huge pres­sure. “It is very in­tense for him and he gets at­tacked by me­dia af­ter the races, so I ac­cept that. But my heart is so glad.”

In March last year, five months be­fore the Rio Olympics in Brazil,

Van Niek­erk woke up at the Panorama hos­pi­tal in Cape Town with Wayde by her side, af­ter un­der­go­ing a quin­tu­ple heart by­pass. “I was very sick,” she said. “But there was Wayde and he said to me: ‘Gran, you must get bet­ter. You must come to Brazil with us.’ “So I did. I got bet­ter. The doc­tor was amazed by my re­cov­ery.” The fam­ily ral­lied be­hind Wayde in Rio de Janeiro, where they all shared a flat near the sta­dium: his grand­par­ents, his fa­ther Wayne, his mother Odessa Swarts and her sec­ond hus­band Steven, his aunt Al­nisha van Niek­erk Pil­lar, and his fi­ancée, Univer­sity of the Free State lec­turer Ch­es­ney Camp­bell.

Camp­bell and Wayde met at the univer­sity four years ago. He was study­ing mar­ket­ing and she was a so­ci­ol­ogy stu­dent. Camp­bell was also in London this week.

Van Niek­erk said a “What­sApp save the date” mes­sage for the cou­ple’s up­com­ing wed­ding had been cir­cu­lated to fam­ily and friends, but Camp­bell did not want to re­veal de­tails.

Al­nisha, who is Wayde’s god­mother, told City Press that as a young­ster, he used to out­run other chil­dren play­ing in Kraai­fontein. “Play­ing touch­ies or what­ever, Wayde could al­ways run away from the other chil­dren,” she said.

Wayde lived next door to Al­nisha until he was 11, but moved to Bloem­fontein with his mother af­ter his par­ents di­vorced.

Al­nisha said athletics ran in the fam­ily genes. “Wayne [Al­nisha’s brother and Wayde’s fa­ther] ran at high school and pri­mary school. But he was more of a high jumper. He went to Johannesburg to rep­re­sent Boland … I also had a record for high jump­ing at my school. I held it for four years until Wayde’s mother, then Odessa Krause, shat­tered it.”

Al­nisha runs a Transnet can­teen in Cape Town which is plas­tered with pho­to­graphs of Wayde. This week, she had to dash across the road to the men’s mess room to watch her nephew race.

“All the guys were watch­ing with me, cheer­ing. It was joy­ous,” she said. Mean­while, grand­mother Sophia said Panorama hos­pi­tal staff treated her like gold af­ter learn­ing who her grand­son was.

“I felt a bit bad about this pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, you know. Such good ser­vice, just be­cause my grand­son is a leg­end.”

Also scor­ing top hon­ours for South Africa was Luvo Manyonga (26), from Mbek­weni town­ship in Paarl, who won long jump gold last Satur­day. Manyonga was joined in London by his girl­friend, Kho­motso Mam­buru, a law stu­dent at the Univer­sity of the Free State.

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