'What's important now is that the world gets better': Wayde van Niekerk
Much-loved SA athletics champ Wayde van Niekerk would this weekend have been counting down exactly two months to the start of the Olympics in Tokyo.
Instead, he told SowetanLIVE sister publication TimesLIVE this week: “What’s important now is that the world gets better and keeps safe.”
Four years ago at the Olympics in Brazil he was the flag-bearer for the SA team and sprinted off with a gold medal after breaking the world record for the men’s 400m.
He also has two gold and one silver world championship medals, and has come back fighting fit after a bad knee injury in 2017 that took him out of the Commonwealth Games the following year.
When asked if the postponement of the Olympics would help or harm his performance, he said: “As a professional athlete, you always have to be ready. So I was ready at that stage, but at the same time it definitely helps that I have an extra year to get back to being my best or even better.”
He said he was hoping the delay could help his chances, and that his “goal right now is to go sub 43 sec”.
“Where I do it, I’m not sure, but it would be a bonus if it’s at the Olympics.”
His message to fellow SA Olympians is this: “Work hard on your dreams! Don’t let all this distract you. Everybody is going through the same thing so just work harder on your dreams.”
Champion swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker was the country’s top medal hopes for Tokyo 2020, but now she will make her Olympic debut next year.
She won double gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2018, beating a record set by SA Penny Heyns almost two decades prior.
Schoenmaker says of the Olympic postponement: “Initially I was relieved that a decision had been made because our training was taking strain with the lockdown, but once it had sunk in, I was disappointed that after all the hard work I wouldn’t get to the Olympics this year.”
She added: “We must just conquer this pandemic so that people can be safe and we can still have an Olympics next year.”
When and if the Olympics happen next year, it will be Schoenmaker’s first time, something which she describes as “a dream come true in itself”.
Fuelled by her faith, she says she will “work extremely hard in this extra time to be at my best and if I get a medal, it will be the absolute cherry on top of a lifelong dream”.
Her message to her fellow SA Olympians: “Focus on your wellbeing at this time. Don’t compare yourself to others. People are at different levels of their progress so don’t compare yourself and then start doubting yourself.”
She says you have to “choose your own goals during this time, and stick to them”.
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