Cham­pion Van Niek­erk looks to Bolt for fi­nal in­spi­ra­tion

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCK­ERT DE VIL­LIERS

WAYDE van Niek­erk will fight for the right to be named as the heir ap­par­ent to Usain Bolt at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships, start­ing in Lon­don to­day.

The build-up to the global show­piece has seen two of its two big­gest draw­cards ex­change com­pli­ments, Van Niek­erk pay­ing homage to the retiring hero and Bolt ad­mir­ing the rise of a star.

Speak­ing at an Adi­das spon­sor­ships event, Van Niek­erk said: “It’s one thing some­one say­ing he can be the next great thing but it’s an­other thing work­ing for that great­ness.”

“This is a dream that I need to fight for and I need to fight for it as hard as I can.”

Van Niek­erk and Bolt have been in­volved in an ath­letic pas de deux since the Rio Olympic Games.

On Tues­day evening Bolt once again sin­gled out Van Niek­erk as one of the ath­letes to be­come the new poster kid of the sport.

“He told me he’ll send me his in­voice be­cause he’s been punt­ing me out there quite a lot,” Van Niek­erk said about their re­la­tion­ship in re­cent times.

“It’s an hon­our to be able to learn and rub shoul­ders with a great like Usain.”

The South African world record­holder is on the cusp of reach­ing his own level of great­ness by tar­get­ing a rare 200-400m dou­ble gold at the cham­pi­onships.

Asked whether he had spo­ken to Bolt about the pres­sure of be­ing the face of the sport, Van Niek­erk said he had an acute aware­ness of the task ahead.

“His im­pact on the sport has been mas­sive and now I have the op­por­tu­nity to build a small re­la­tion­ship with him and I con­tinue my jour­ney,” Van Niek­erk said.

“It gives me a lot of ex­cite­ment to see what lies in store for me but at the same time I know there’s a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity for me to go out there and work for where I want to be.”

The de­fend­ing 400m world cham­pion said that while he had no im­me­di­ate plans to re­move the one-lap sprint from his reper­toire, the shorter dis­tances would re­ceive more at­ten­tion in fu­ture.

“The 400m is a very dif­fi­cult topic for me, it brought me to where I am to­day, so I will be stupid to let it go and let it slip,” Van Niek­erk said.

“But at the same time, I wish I could leave it and fo­cus on the 100m and the 200m. But I don’t think I would just do that be­cause of the fact that I am do­ing so great in the event.”

Mean­while, South Africa’s two shot-put­ters Orazio Cre­mona and Jaco En­gel­brecht can­not seem to find a re­prieve from the throes of win­ter with cold weather wel­com­ing them at the height of the English sum­mer.

Cre­mona and En­gel­brecht had a tour of the cir­cle in the Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park amidst cold and wet con­di­tions.

How­ever, noth­ing could dampen En­gel­brecht’s mood af­ter the birth of his sec­ond child ear­lier in the day.

“The birth was sup­posed to be next week, so it was touch and go whether I would make it or not, but they were ap­par­ently do­ing shop­ping to­day and she felt there was some­thing wrong and had to go to the hos­pi­tal,” En­gel­brecht said.

The African cham­pion said the new ad­di­tion to their fam­ily weighed 3.76km.

“I’m look­ing to make a fi­nal, two years ago I set my­self the tar­get and I should have made the fi­nal two years ago,”

“But my head wasn’t right and I went into a two-year pro­gramme so we will see. Dis­tance wise I also want to go 21 me­tres.”

Na­tional throw­ers coach Terseus Lieben­berg was not im­pressed with the cold weather but En­gel­brecht and Cre­mona re­mained un­de­terred in their mis­sion.

Cre­mona smashed his per­sonal best by al­most half-a-me­tre with a fi­nal heave of 21.12 me­tres to claim the South African ti­tle in Potchef­stroom, which edged him closer to Janus Rob­berts’ na­tional record of 21.97m.

Both Cre­mona and En­gel­brecht, who hold up day jobs, opted not to par­tic­i­pate in any throw com­pe­ti­tions in Europe in­stead mak­ing ad­just­ments dur­ing the South African win­ter.

“I’m not go­ing to put any ex­pec­ta­tions on my­self, I feel good, I am healthy, so I just want to go out and do my best,” Cre­mona said ahead of com­pet­ing at his third world cham­pi­onships.

“When you are in­jury free, it feels like you can fly, I had a good train­ing ses­sion to­day, I feel like the rhythm is there.”

In­ces­sant rain did lit­tle to ex­tin­guish the Usain Bolt mania that swept through the Bri­tish cap­i­tal, the Ja­maica dom­i­nated the back pages of Eng­land’s daily news­pa­pers as the sprint­ing leg­end pre­pares for his fi­nal golden hur­rah in the 100m on Satur­day.

The weath­er­man pre­dicts clear and sunny con­di­tions for the big race when South Africa’s Akani Sim­bine is also ex­pected to line up in what prom­ises to be a most mem­o­rable fi­nal.

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