Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has dominated the athletics world for the better part of the last decade. The announcement of his retirement at the end of this season has left the world searching for a possible successor.
And Bolt has put forward South African phenom Wayde van Niekerk as his likely successor.
“Yeah for sure,” was Bolt’s response to AFP‘s question of who could take over from him in dominating the athletics world.
“I think he really wants to be a sprinter because he’s set a personal best in the 100m this year,” Bolt said.
Van Niekerk, after a quiet start to his athletics career has set the athletics world alight with his achievements over the last two years.
In 2015, he announced his presence as a contender at the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) World Championships with a 400m win in a time of 43.48 seconds, which also made him the fourth fastest runner of all time.
This performance was followed by a gold-medal winning performance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, winning the 400m in a time of 43.03 seconds. Van Niekerk broke American sprinter Michael Johnson’s record that has stood since 1999. In addition, van Niekerk also became the only man to ever win the Olympic or World 400 metre sprint from lane 8, which usually puts runners at a disadvantage as a result of the staggered start.
On Wednesday evening, van Niekerk further enhanced his claim to Bolt’s crown, winning the rarely run 300m at the Golden Spike meet in Ostrava, Czech Republic, in a time of 30.81 seconds. Incidentally, he smashed another of Johnson’s records with this win.
To date, the South African sprinter has become the first man in history to run under 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 seconds for the 200m, 31 seconds for 300m and 44 seconds for the 400m.
Bolt is the reigning World and Olympic champion in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay and an eight-time Olympic gold medallist. In addition, he is the only sprinter to have won the ‘triple double’ – gold in the 100m and 200m at three consecutive Olympic Games (2008, 2012 and 2016).
The Jamaican sprinter is preparing to hang up his racing shoes at the ripe age of 30. Van Niekerk, at 24 (he turns 25 on July 15), still has a good number of years left to compete.
“He’s shown he’s ready for the challenge. He’s really down to earth, he’s really humble, he’s a great person. He listens and wants to be good and if he continues like this he’ll take over track and field,” Bolt told AFP.
Could Wayde be better than Usain?
He has time on his side, is hitting his stride quite comfortably and according to the champion, he has the character to go all the way.
Yes, he can.