Wayde wants to be the best in the world
Wayde van Niekerk won the men’s 200m final at the SA championships in Pretoria last night to claim his first national crown since getting injured in 2017.
It also marks 10 years since he won his first SA title, in the same event, but Van Niekerk had little time to celebrate being the best in the country — he wants to be the best in the world.
“Let’s be honest, my mentality is way beyond this right now. My goal is to run against the best in the world,” the Olympic 400m champion said after clocking 20.38sec in the chilly night air.
“A title here is a good step forward knowing where I come from, but mentally my mind is at being the best in the world. Being the best in SA is something I’m grateful for, but it’s not where my mind is at and where my heart is at.”
Samaai is another medal contender
This race was a tale of two former stars returning from injury. Anaso Jobodwana, who struggled with his hip after winning the 2015 world championship bronze, finished at the back of the field in 20.90.
Entering the small media dugout at the Tuks stadium, victorious Van Niekerk threw a wink and a smile at long-jumper Ruswahl Samaai on the other side of the enclosure.
Samaai is another of SA’s Olympic medal contenders, although he was disappointed with his 8.16m winning effort.
“It’s not the best even though it’s my season opener. We always strive to get our Olympic qualification (8.22) at every single competition.
“I am a medal contender. We had a lot of good preparation so the most important thing was to take it day by day, step by step and not tend to focus on Tokyo as much because we’ll get there eventually.”
Samaai is one of just 14 SA athletes to have achieved automatic qualifying standards in individual events so far. The three-day meet produced only two Olympic qualifying standards, by Akani Simbine in the 100m and Rocco van Rooyen in the javelin, though both had previously qualified.
Wenda Nel regained the SA 400m hurdles crown she last won in 2018 for her ninth ca
‘Being the best in SA I’m grateful for, but it’s not where my mind is’
reer title, but she missed her main target, the 55.40 Olympic qualifying time.
She walked off the track with a smile, but still mouthed “dammit” after clocking 55.60, comfortably in front of defending champion Zeney van der Walt (56.45).
“That was the aim, to get the qualifier,” said 32-year-old Nel, who is still shaking off the rust. “I only planned my season until nationals because there are question marks over whether we can travel as a result of Covid-19.
“I didn’t execute my last hurdle properly … When I came down I said to myself ‘nou moet jy fight’ (now you must fight).”
Nel, controversially omitted from SA’s 2012 Olympic team despite running two qualifying times, will start planning a European campaign to keep chasing her Tokyo dream.