South Africans to watch in Rio: Wayde van Niekerk

Wayde van Niekerk (Gallo Images)
Wayde van Niekerk (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - No non-American has ever run the 400m faster than Wayde van Niekerk. 

He is still just 24-years-old but has come on in leaps and bounds over the years. 

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He was first noticed when, as an 18-year-old, he won gold at the South African Athletics Championships in 2011. That win came in the 200m and Van Niekerk was immediately identified as one of the country's most promising young sprinters. 

In the seasons that followed, it became clear that the 400m was Van Niekerk's specialty.

The real public excitement surrounding his potential charge in Rio began gathering serious momentum in 2014.

He won silver in the 400m at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow that year before going one better to claim gold at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last year.

That race made him the fastest non-American ever over 400m

Then, in early 2016, Van Niekerk broke the 10-second barrier in the 100m. 

He became the first man in history to break 10 seconds over 100m, 20 seconds over 200m and 44 seconds over 400m. 

Of course, there will be no medals for such achievements in Rio, but Van Niekerk will arrive at the Games boosted by the knowledge that he has achieved something no other man has. 

Van Niekerk, who will be Team South Africa's official flag bearer at the Games, is the favourite to win gold in this year's 400m. 

If that works out, and if Caster Semenya dominates as expected, then it could be an historic Games on the track for our athletes. 

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