‘No mat­ter what foot falls first, it will be my best’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCK­ERT DE VIL­LIERS

WILL­ING and able to be the heir to Usain Bolt’s throne as sprint­ing king, Wayde van Niek­erk knows full well that the ti­tle won’t be handed to him on a plat­ter.

Speak­ing ahead of to­day’s Lau­sanne Di­a­mond League meet­ing where he will be rac­ing his first in­ter­na­tional 400m of the sea­son, Van Niek­erk said the year was about hon­our­ing Bolt for his track and field legacy.

“This year is re­ally just time for us to go out there and thank him for what he had done for the sport and, ob­vi­ously, as the new gen­er­a­tion, I would like to take the ba­ton and con­tinue do­ing great things,” Van Niek­erk said at an IAAF Di­a­mond League press con­fer­ence.

“Ob­vi­ously, with that comes a lot of hard work and years, so I know for me right now is to fo­cus on my per­for­mances and try and pull out good times as an ath­lete.”

The South African 400m world LON­DON: For­mula One is team­ing up with mar­ket­ing agency La­gardere Sports to build strate­gic part­ner­ships in China from 2018 on­wards and raise the sport’s pro­file in a re­gion it sees as hav­ing huge po­ten­tial for growth.

The sport’s new own­ers, Lib­erty Me­dia, see China, along with the United States, as ripe for ex­pan­sion and there has been talk of adding a sec­ond grand prix in the coun­try to the long-stand­ing one in Shang­hai.

La­gardere is al­ready a record-holder has been show­ing im­prove­ments in the shorter dis­tances, rac­ing to new per­sonal bests in the 100, 200, and 300m so far this sea­son.

Van Niek­erk sprinted to a new South African 200m record in Kingston, Ja­maica last month with a time of 19.84 sec­onds.

He then shaved 0.04 off his 100m time of 9.94 in Ve­lenje, 10 days later.

Last week he added an­other feather to his cap, when he broke an­other of Michael John­son world mark as he posted a new 300m world best of 30.81 sec­onds at the Os­trava Golden Spike meet­ing.

He knocked 0.04 off the pre­vi­ous mark John­son set in Pre­to­ria back in 2000.

Judg­ing by Van Niek­erk’s form over all three dis­tances, the ques­tion of whether he would be­come the first man to dip be­low 43 sec­onds over the one-lap sprint has in­stead changed to when he will do it.

The South African has proven that one can ex­pect the ‘ridicu­lous’ ev­ery time he backs into the blocks.

All eyes will be firmly on the clock in Lau­sanne, where he will give the best in­di­ca­tion of his form ahead of his world ti­tle-de­fence in Lon­don next month.

“I feel quite con­fi­dent on how I’ve been per­form­ing so far, I def­i­nitely know I am in good shape when it comes to ev­ery sin­gle dis­tance be­low 400 me­tres, ex­cept the 400m,” Van Niek­erk said.

“I’m ex­cited to see what foot will come first and how I will do to­mor­row, but you know me by now, I will put my best foot for­ward and try and put a good show out there.”

Five more South Africans will be in ac­tion in the Swiss city, in­clud­ing Rio Olympics women’s javelin sil­ver medal­list Sunette Viljoen.

Viljoen has been fly­ing be­low the radar and will be com­pet­ing in only her fifth meet­ing of the sea­son. Her sea­son’s best of 63.49m at the na­tional cham­pi­onships in Potchef­stroom in April, ranks her 11th in the world and she would be look­ing to take some form into the world cham­pi­onships.

South African short-sprint spe­cial­ists, Akani Sim­bine and Hen­ri­cho Bru­in­tjies, will have a sec­ond bite of the 100m cherry two days af­ter rac­ing in Bu­dapest.

Sim­bine nar­rowly missed out on the top step of the podium when former world cham­pion Justin Gatlin beat him to the line by 0.01 with Bru­in­tjies miss­ing out on a medal by the same mar­gin.

South African record-holder Sim­bine posted his 14th sub-10 sec­ond time for his sec­ond place, with Bru­in­tjies clock­ing a cred­itable 10.11.

The duo will again line up against Gatlin and fel­low Amer­i­can Isiah Young, who fin­ished third in the 100m race in Bu­dapest.

The South African con­tin­gent is rounded off by one-lap hur­dlers LJ van Zyl and Cor­nel Fred­er­icks as they look to chase down the A-qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard for the world cham­pi­onships.

They will have to dip well be­low 49 sec­onds to earn their places of the global show­piece with the stan­dard set at 48.50.

Van Zyl has a sea­son’s best of 49.29, while Fred­er­icks’ fastest time this year is 49.27.

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