15 Things You Didn’t Know About SA Olympic Gold Winner Wayde Van Niekerk

15 Things You Didn’t Know About SA Olympic Gold Winner Wayde Van Niekerk

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South African running sensation Wayde van Niekerk, 24, made a name for himself on the global stage at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio by winning the men’s 400 meter in world record time. To celebrate the achievement of South Africa’s newest sports hero, we take a closer look.

Source: IOL, Twitter, IAAF, TimesLive, CityPress, Channel24, LiverpoolEcho, IndependentOnline.

Wayde Van Niekerk wins gold
Wayde van Niekerk wins gold, Rio Olympics 400 meter. Photo: Twitter/Adidas South Africa

Fastest ever in the 400 meters

Van Niekerk set a new world record in the men’s 400 meter at 43.03 seconds, beating Olympic champions Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt.

Photo: sbnation.com
Wayde Van Niekerk breaks the 400 meter world record. Photo: sbnation.com

He smashed Michael Johnson’s record

He broke the 17-year world record held by American Michael Johnson of 43.18 seconds and the 1996 Olympic record of 43.49.

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt – biography.com

He trained with Usain Bolt

After winning the Olympic gold, Van Niekerk got a hug from Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinting legend trained alongside Van Niekerk in Jamaica a few months before Rio 2016.

Olympic Gold Medal
Van Niekerk won the first Rio Olympic gold medal for Team SA – alphamom.com

Team South Africa’s first gold at Rio 2016

Team SA earned five silver and one bronze medal before Van Niekerk 400-meter win — South Africa’s first gold medal in Brazil.

South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk
South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk – bbc.com

Historic achievement in March

Van Niekerk made history at the Free State Championships in March by becoming the only athlete ever to run the 100 meter under 10 seconds, the 200 meter under 20 seconds and the 400 meter in under 44 seconds.

Sea Point, Cape Town property real estate south africa
Van Niekerk was born in Cape Town

Born in the Mother City

Van Niekerk was born and raised in Cape Town. He attended Grey College before studying marketing at University of the Free State.

2016 African Championships - Wayde Van Niekerk
Wayde Van Niekerk is a South African hero – zeenews.india.com

World Champ before Olympic Champ

At the 2015 IAAF World Championships, Van Niekerk won gold in the 400 meters with a personal best time of 43.48 seconds. This made him the fourth fastest person in history, and the fastest non-American. Now he’s world and Olympic champion.

Wayde van Niekerk celebrates win in Rio
Wayde van Niekerk celebrates win in Rio – sport24.co.za

Massive Liverpool fan

Van Niekerk loves soccer. His favorite club team, Liverpool, beat Arsenal 4-3 on the eve of his historic 400-meter world record run.

Akani Simbine in action - potential to medal
Akani Simbine in action – timeslive.co.za

Simbine is his roommate 

Fellow Team SA athlete and 100-meter sprinter Akani Simbine is Van Niekerk’s roommate at the Olympics. They are great friends who motivate each other.

Sprinter Wayde van Niekerk
Sprinter Wayde van Niekerk is a popular sportsman – timeslive.co.za

Around 10,000 Twitter followers before the Olympics

Van Niekerk uses Twitter to connect with fans. He had 10,000 followers on Twitter before the 2016 Olympics. His handle is @WaydeDreamer.

Wayde van Niekerk sets new world record
Wayde van Niekerk sets new world record – liverpoolecho.co.uk

Over 50,000 Twitter followers after winning gold

Van Niekerk’s Twitter following exploded after his amazing accomplishment in Rio, from 10,000 to over 50,000. That number continues to grow.

Wayde van Niekerk
Wayde van Niekerk often prays on the track – news.com.au

He is very religious

Van Niekerk speaks often about God’s influence in his life, the many blessings he enjoys and for his athletic talent.

Wayde van Niekerk award
Wayde van Niekerk at the SA Sport Awards – destinyman.com

Third fastest 300-meter time

Before the Rio Olympics, Van Niekerk ran the third fastest 300 meters at 31.03 seconds. Only U.S.’s Michael Johnson (30.85) and Usain Bolt (30.97) ran it faster.

Wayde van Niekerk anti-bullying campaign
Wayde van Niekerk anti-bullying campaign – mediaupdate.co.za

Part of anti-bullying campaign

Van Niekerk works with Cartoon Network and ChildLine on an international anti-bullying campaign empowering kids against bullying. Children are encouraged to “be a buddy, not a bully.”

Wayde van Niekerk with medal
Wayde van Niekerk with medal – timeslive.co.za

Medal collector

In addition to his Olympic gold, Van Niekerk won silver in the 400m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games; bronze in the 4×400m relay at the 2013 Summer Universiade and gold in the 400m at the 2015 Athletics World Championships.