I'm Bolt's hype man, jokes Wayde

06 July 2017 - 07:38
CROWD FLUFFER: Wayde van Niekerk says Usain Bolt has inspired many athletes, including himself Picture: AFP
CROWD FLUFFER: Wayde van Niekerk says Usain Bolt has inspired many athletes, including himself Picture: AFP

Wayde van Niekerk would love to take the sprint baton from Usain Bolt, but for now he is happy just being the Jamaican's "hype man".

Van Niekerk, who competes in his first international 400m of the season in Lausanne tonight, said he had joked with Bolt, who retires later this year, that he was whipping up the crowds at meets before the sprint legend took to the track.

"I was joking with him. I said I'm basically becoming his hype man for his farewell season because it was since Rio [Olympics], before his race I got the crowd hot, before Jamaica I went out and got the crowd hot and again in Ostrava I went out there and got the crowd hot."

Van Niekerk set his 43.03sec world record at the Rio Games shortly before the men's 100m final and then, racing before Bolt in Jamaica and Ostrava last month, he ran to his 19.84 200m South African record and 30.81 300m world best.

He said Bolt had inspired many athletes, including himself, and he deserved to be honoured in his final season. "This year is just to thank him for what he's done for the sport.

"Obviously, as the new generation, I would love to take the baton and continue doing great things, but with that comes a lot of hard work and years."

Van Niekerk, who plans on doing the 200m-400m double at the world championships in London next month, insisted he had no time goal for tonight, adding he would not be disappointed if he failed to break 44 seconds.

"I've never been someone who chases a record; the only time was Ostrava."

Van Niekerk said he was looking forward to seeing where he was in the 400m.

Among those lining up against Van Niekerk tonight is Machel Cedenio of Trinidad and Tobago, who is the only man to have beaten South Africa's Olympic champion in an international 400m race in the past two seasons.

Van Niekerk's compatriots Sunette Viljoen and Akani Simbine look to have stiffer competition tonight.

Olympic silver medallist Viljoen is up against four of the other top six finishers in Rio, including champion Sara Kolak of Croatia and Czech Republic's veteran bronze medallist Barbora Spotakova.

In the 100m, Simbine and training partner Henricho Bruintjies face Justin Gatlin, who beat them in Hungary on Tuesday night.