Saturday, 15 July 2017 16:21

VIDEO: Happy birthday, Wayde van Niekerk!

He is arguably the greatest South African track and field athlete in modern history, and there’s still a lot more to come.

Wayde van Niekerk celebrates his 25th birthday today, July 15, and we felt it’s the right time to have a throwback to last August, when he took gold and destroyed Michael Johnson’s 400m world record in a sensational time of 43.03 seconds!

American Johnson’s 17-year-old mark was 43.18, and was one of those which most pundits thought would never be broken.

But they didn’t count on a young man who hails from Cape Town and now calls Bloemfontein home.

Van Niekerk had it in his genes, as his mother Odessa Swarts was a champion sprinter in the non-racial Sacos fold as well.

And, as fate would have it, it is also his fiancée Chesney Campbell’s birthday today! Campbell turns 25 as well, and the pair took to Instagram to wish each other happy birthday.

 

Happy birthday...... ?

A post shared by Chesney Campbell (@chesney_campbell) on

Van Niekerk will next be in action at the Herculis meeting on July 21 in Monaco, and then of course the big one this year is the IAAF world championships in London from August 4-13, where he will compete in both the 200m and 400m.

 

Happy Birthday ???????

A post shared by Wayde van Niekerk (@waydedreamer) on


Van Niekerk's Six Best Video Highlights

Twenty-five years ago today, God sent his second son Wayde Van Niekerk down to earth to bless us with his unabated talent.

Our very own golden boy has given us all some wonderful moments to enjoy, so what better present could we get him than a top-six countdown of his finest achievements?

6) Wayde nails a short distance sprint on home turf at the African Championships

Men’s 200m, Durban, 2016

Just before he made us lose our minds in Rio, Van Niekerk competed at the 2016 African Championships in Durban. He smashed the 20-second barrier for the 200m and, in a now legendary interview, claimed he was ‘waiting for his moment to come’.

5) You never forget your first… Wayde scores his maiden medal with bronze in Kazan

4 x 400m relay, Russia, 2013

This is where Wayde really kicked things into fifth gear. After a turbulent 18 months of injury rehabilitation and finding his best discipline, this run in Kazan set WVN on a now familiar path to podium places

4) Records tumble in the IAAF Diamond League:

Men’s 400m, Switzerland, 2017

This was a Diamond League record, continuing the magnificent 2017 Wayde’s having. He’s smashed his personal bests in the 100m, 200m, and 300m and this was another show of strength from the birthday boy.

3) History is made in Ostrava

Men’s 300m, Czech Republic, 2017

The Cape Storm (that nickname will catch on) made Michael Johnson look like he was a pensioner. The 300m is a rarity and isn’t run often, which will suit Wayde just fine as he is now the fastest man to ever run in this race: Phenomenal!

2) The King of Beijing claims his first gold at the World Championships

Men’s 400m, China, 2015

He got his first taste of gold in China, and his appetite has been ravenous ever since. This was the first time he had truly stamped his authority on the sport, and he never looked back.

1) The day the entire world was blown away by our boy.

Men’s Olympic 400m, Brazil, 2016

Where were you when Wayde took the Olympic gold? Who did you celebrate with, and how proud were you? I’ll let you reflect on all these wonderful questions as this fan footage perfectly captures the victory, and what it meant to South African spectators.

Happy Birthday, champ!


Athletics stars snub Universiade

Olympic champions Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya were yesterday provisionally omitted from South Africa's World Student Games team, with the University Sport SA president saying she was disappointed in them.

"As of yesterday Wayde, Caster and Akani Simbine had not confirmed their participation," Ilhaam Groenewald said at the announcement of the team in Pretoria. "I'm very disappointed."

She said there was still time to add them to the roster of about 130 competitors across 10 codes who would represent the country in Taipei, Taiwan, from August 19-30.

Groenewald said the trio had qualified at the university championships earlier in the year, adding that their presence would lift the team into the top 10 of the medals table at the Games, also known as the Universiade.

"The only gold medal [Van Niekerk] doesn't have is a Universiade gold.

"We really hope they change their minds," said Groenewald, who pointed out that many past stars had competed at this biennial showpiece, including Penny Heyns in 1997, the reigning Olympic 100m and 200m breaststroke champion at the time.

With her that year was Marius Corbett, who had just won the men's world javelin crown.

Other stars who have competed include Hezekiel Sepeng, Sunette Viljoen, Ryk Neethling, Llewellyn Herbert and Van Niekerk, who took a bronze in the 4x400m relay in 2013.

Van Niekerk, Semenya and Simbine are competing at the world championships starting in London August 4, with Van Niekerk and Simbine hoping to finish on August10 and Semenya three days later. The World Student Games athletics starts on August 23.

Ruswahl Samaai, who participated at the Rio Games, will take part in London and Taipei games.

Other Olympians going to Taipei are Rynardt van Rensburg, Justine Palframan, Dominique Scott, Lynique Prinsloo and Anel Oosthuizen. Palframan, the Games' 400m defending champion, was named flag-bearer.

In the absence of Simbine, Thando Roto will attempt to secure South Africa's third straight 100m crown. Simbine won it two years ago, while Anaso Jobodwana lifted it in 2013 as he ran a rare 100m-200m double.

With 44 members, the athletics contingent is the largest. The men's and women's football teams numbering 40.

SA increase medal tally at U18 champs

It was a rollercoaster day for the South African youth team on Thursday, though they experienced more highs than lows, earning two more medals to increase their tally to four on the second day of the IAAF World U-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the Boys Javelin Throw final, Johannes Schlebusch produced the performance of his fledgling career, bagging the silver medal with a career best heave of 75.68m.

Fellow South African athlete Joshua Maas struggled to mount a challenge, however and after delivering a first-round throw of 59.55m, he was unable to make the midway cut.

Earlier, in the Boys Shot Put final, Jonathan de Lacey Lacey was also in the shape of his life, securing a bronze medal with a 19.93m Personal Best, just seven centimetres short of second place.

"I'm surprised and excited to win a bronze medal. I didn't expect to do well here because I didn't have a good preparation prior to the final," said De Lacey Lacey, who will turn out again in the Discus Throw qualifying round on Friday. "I expect another medal in the Discus Throw, though, because I will put in the same effort."

There was disappointment for versatile athlete Julian Bogner in the Boys Long Jump final. He was in third ahead of the last round with a 7.40m leap, but Andreas Bucsa of Romania snatched the bronze medal with a 7.47m final jump and the South African had to settle for fourth position.

Sprinter Rose Xeyi did well to reach the Girls 100m final, finishing seventh in 12.01. While compatriot Joviale Mbisha had set a Personal Best of 11.99 in the semifinals, she finished fifth in her race and was unable to progress to the medal contest.

Meanwhile, in preliminary rounds, Sokwakhana Zazini coasted to a convincing victory in his 400m Hurdles heat, booking his place as the firm favourite for Saturday's final.

Zazini, who set a world youth best of 48.84 in Pretoria in March, clocked 49.63. He was more than two seconds faster than the next fastest qualifier in the opening round.

Earlier in the morning session, Zeney van der Walt won her 400m Hurdles heat in 59.60 to book her place in the final, to be held on Saturday.

Though Gontse Morake got off to a great start in her heat, she faded down the home straight and finished fourth in 1:00.59 and could not proceed.

In the opening round of the Girls Hammer Throw, Tharina van der Walt launched a 63.10m to qualify for the final, also taking place on Saturday.

Bogner kept his medal hopes alive, ending third in his 110m Hurdles heat in 14.12 to progress safely though to Friday's semifinals.

Though Roelof van der Walt was quicker in his heat, crossing the line in 13.97, he finished fourth and was eliminated ahead of the penultimate round.

After two days of competition, the SA team are in second overall on the table with four medals (one gold, two silver and one bronze).

SA shows depth ahead of London

Athletics SA (ASA) yesterday gave indication of track and field hopefuls who have provisionally booked their berths for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in London next month.

As expected, Rio Olympics medalists - Wayde van Niekerk (400m), Luvo Manyonga (long jump), Caster Semenya (800m) and Sunette Viljoen (javelin) - headline the 22-member preliminary team.

Other athletes with world championships experience such as Akani Simbine (100m) and Khotso Mokoena (long jump) have also made the team, so is rising sprinter Clarence Munyai who is set to debut at the senior global track and field meeting.

Mokoena is among the four jumpers who have qualified but only three will make it to London as per the required quota than can be entered per country in each event.

Other local athletes, meanwhile, have until July 23 to breach the ASA A-qualifying standard, which is tougher than that set by the IAAF.

At most, hopefuls must record their personal best marks in their respective events to stand any chance of making the final team by the cut-off date.

ASA is also crossing fingers to have a relay team at the championships.

The federation is hopeful that the 4x100m men's relay team will make it as one of the eight nations to go with the eight that have already qualified at the World Relays in April.

ASA president Aleck Skhosana has encouraged athletes to work hard to get into the team.

"There is still a chance for anybody who wants to represent South Africa at this global premier event," Skhosana said.

The world championships will be held from August 4 to 13.

Lemao wins SA’s first gold medal

Tshenolo Lemao won South Africa’s first gold medal at the IAAF World Youth Championships (under-18) in Nairobi tonight winning the 100m in 10.57s.

It was a one-two for South Africa in the final as Retshidisitswe Mlenga was second in 10.61s with the pre-race favourite, Tyreke Wilson (Jamaica), third in 10.65s.

“I am definitely over the moon. It was a great race to win,” said the 16-year-old learner from TuksSport High School moments after his victory.

The conditions were far from ideal as it started to rain just before the final. However, Lemao was never going to allow that to get to him. He is a firm believer in controlling the controllable.

“I was excited when I started to settle down in my starting blocks. The only thing I wanted to do was to run. I knew the conditions would be tough, but I told my myself to stay calm and focused.”

According to Lemao, he was motivated after the semifinals as he ran only the third fastest time. He finished second in his semifinal heat running 10.50s.

“Afterwards I told myself to refocus on what matters, and that is to to win a medal for South Africa.”

Before he left for Nairobi Lemao was slightly worried as to how he would perform on the international stage.

“In the 100m I feel at times that I get overexcited, over-concentrating before I race. That leads to me messing up my race.”

Testing himself against the stopwatch was not always Lemao’s first passion. At first, he was an avid hockey and cricket player. At primary school, he earned his provincial colours in hockey, and he used to be a handy fast bowler.

“What I love about sprinting is that you get to test yourself all the time. There is always the question as to how fast you can really run,” said the TuksSport High School learner.

He ascribed his success to hard work.

SA claim two medals at U18 Champs

The South African team opened their campaign in spectacular fashion on Wednesday, securing top spot in the medals table after the first day of competition at the IAAF World U18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

Competing in wet conditions, sprinters Tshenolo Lemao and Retshidisitswe Mlenga earned gold and silver respectively in the Boys 100m final.

The duo scooped the nation's first ever medals in a world championship event over the short-sprint distance, with Lemao clocking 10.57, holding off Mlenga by just 0.04. Jamaican speedster Tyreke Wilson settled for bronze in 10.65.

"It feels good to win the first gold of the championship for South Africa," Lemao said afterwards. "I came prepared for the race after finishing second in my semifinal."

Though he had entered the race as the favourite, after clocking the fastest time in the semifinals (10.37), second-placed Mlenga was delighted to step on the podium.

“No disappointment and I have no excuses. They beat me fair and square, and I’m happy I was able to get a medal,” he said.

Both Lemao and Mlenga are scheduled to run the heats of the 200m on Friday.

Infield, Meike Strydom was in the form of her life, producing a personal best heave of 16.40m to finish fifth in the Girls Shot Put final.

In the Girls 3 000m final, Dipuo Mashishi struggled to put up a fight in tough conditions, though she gritted her teeth and pushed hard to take 12th place in 11:06.60.

Sprinters Rose Xeyi (12.18) and Joviale Mbisha (12.27) also displayed good form in the Girls 100m heats, with both athletes progressing to Thursday's semifinals.

In the Boys 800m heats, Ntuthuko Ndimande went out hard but struggled to mount a challenge down the finishing straight. He took fourth position in his race in 1:56.16 and missed out on a place in the final.

Earlier, in the morning session, Tharina van der Walt booked her place in the Girls Discus Throw final, to be held on Friday. She launched a 48.81m heave with her first attempt in the qualifying round, progressing automatically to the medal contest.

"Congratulations to all our young athletes who competed today, especially our new generation of sprinting stars," said Athletics SA President, Aleck Skhosana. "We are proud of their historic achievement. Well done also to all parents who travelled all this way to support their children. We thank the coaches for ensuring they arrived well-prepared."