The softly spoken 25-yr-previous refers to himself as “atypical, very boring” and “common.”
Listening to him converse, it is easy to overlook that is the person tipped to fill the void left by Usain Bolt’s impending retirement from monitor and subject.
Already an Olympic champion — and now a world champion after victory in Tuesday’s 400m remaining — the South African is the one man in historical past to have run a sub-10 second 100m, sub-20 200m and sub-forty four 400m.
And on his method to gold at Rio 2016, Van Niekerk shattered Michael Johnson’s 17-yr-previous 400m world document.
Eight-time Olympic champion Bolt, the quickest man in historical past, has been glowing in his reward, backing Van Niekerk to “take over” athletics in a current interview with CNN.
However maybe he has already. Van Niekerk’s spectacular occasions within the 200m this season — his 19.eighty four second run in Jamaica final month is the second quickest on the planet this yr — have been sufficient to persuade Bolt to not race over that distance on the IAAF World Championships in London.
Now, the understated South African has set his sights on the good Jamaican’s 200m world document.
“For those who had requested me a number of years in the past if the 400m world report is feasible, I in all probability would have been shocked,” Van Niekerk advised CNN.
“Now I am considering why not, as a result of I by no means thought I might be proudly owning the 400m world report at this time, so why not consider within the 200m?”
Prior the the World Championships, which finish on August thirteen, Bolt stated he believed Van Niekerk was “doing lots for the game.” His help hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I ought to owe him a charge for the quantity of recognition he is giving me,” Van Niekerk quipped. “It provides me, clearly, an enormous increase in my profession.
“However, on the similar time, it makes me really feel good as a result of he respects me because the individual I’m and I respect him because the individual he’s. It provides me nice confidence to proceed attaining nice issues.
“I am getting the backing of a legend of the game and he believes within the nice issues I can do and develop into a legend within the sport.”
As Van Niekerk was striding into Olympic historical past in Rio, Bolt seemed on in awe.
Making his method onto the monitor for the 100m last, the Jamaican’s response to Van Niekerk’s forty three.03-second lap turned one of many enduring photographs of the Video games.
Mouth large open, arms clasped over his face, Bolt summed up the emotions of everybody watching within the Olympic Stadium and all over the world.
Nevertheless, Van Niekerk’s athletics journey truly started with the excessive leap, earlier than he transitioned into the 100m and 200m.
Accidents quickly pressured him to desert the shorter sprints and take up the longer, extra grueling 400m.
He quickly found a pure expertise.
“My time simply began rising yr in, yr out,” he recollects. “I began climbing the ranks yearly and I began saying: ‘Okay, one thing is occurring so let’s make investments correct time on this journey.’
“Yr to yr I simply went from power to power, from South African data to world document and now I feel the sky is actually the restrict.
“If I feel to some years again to the place I used to be and the place I’m now, why not dream for much more unimaginable objectives?”
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