Van Niekerk gears up for NY

Athletics (File)
Athletics (File)

Johannesburg - Facing a stellar field in the men's 400m race, Wayde van Niekerk hopes to improve his career record and stamp his authority as the country's top one-lap sprinter at the Diamond League meeting in New York on Saturday.

"I'm feeling positive and looking forward to the opportunity. I would love to go for a personal best," Van Niekerk said.

The 21-year-old rising star clocked 44.92 seconds at the national championships in Pretoria in April, becoming only the sixth South African to break the 45-second barrier.

He continued his fine form last week, securing a solid victory at the World Challenge meeting in Hengelo in 45.07, but Van Niekerk will be up against a stronger field in the Big Apple.

Seven of the nine men in the race boast Olympic Games or IAAF World Championships medals, spearheaded by global champion LaShawn Merritt of the United States.

"I haven't set myself a time goal at all this season. I just want to go as fast as possible," Van Niekerk said.

"To win (in New York) I have to run a personal best because it's a crazy line up, so it's all or nothing." Meanwhile, training partners Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl will hope to make a real impact on the international track and field circuit for the first time this year.

Fredericks, who was a respectable third in Hengelo, and Van Zyl, who has failed to break 50 seconds at two other international meetings during the last week, will be eager to hold their own in the men's 400m hurdles race.

Discus thrower Victor Hogan, who was fifth at last year's global championships in Moscow, will face stiff competition in his specialist event.

Eight of the other nine men in the line-up have throw further than Hogan this season.

Rounding out the SA contingent in New York, 22-year-old long jumper Rushwal Samaai, who set a personal best of 8.13m in Germiston in March, will make his Diamond League debut.

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