Wayde van Niekerk just waiting for his opportunity

SA sprinter Wayde van Niekerk during the launch of the Vitality Running World Cup in Johannesburg yesterday. He says he will be ready for the Olympics in July. / Lee Warren/Gallo Images
SA sprinter Wayde van Niekerk during the launch of the Vitality Running World Cup in Johannesburg yesterday. He says he will be ready for the Olympics in July. / Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Wayde van Niekerk has admitted that he is under pressure to defend his 400m Olympic title in Tokyo at the Olympic Games start in July.

Having been stuck on the sideline since injuring his right knee in a game of touch rugby in late 2017, the Olympic champion and 400m world record-holder is currently regaining lost ground as he prepares for the Olympics.

Since his injury he has been undergoing rehabilitation in Europe and locally over the past two years. But he says he is back and hungry to become a double 400m Olympic champion in Tokyo.

"I have been under pressure since I started athletics, it is part of the game. It is not something that goes away," he said during the Vitality Running World Cup launch in Johannesburg yesterday.

The run was launched yesterday around the world to encourage people to get more active and improve their health with an exciting five-week global running competition.

"I have worked hard to be in the position I am today, so I'm not going to scare away from it. I still want so much greater things and pressure has nothing to do with where I want to be. If pressure comes with it or whatever negativity, I have to deal with it like any other sports person."

Van Niekerk won the Olympic crown at Rio 2016 and the world title in Beijing 2015 and London 2017, but in his absence last year in Doha, the IAAF World championship 400m title went to Steven Gardiner of Bahamas.

"To be honest I would have loved to be there, I'm a competitor and I want to compete against the best in the world. I want to improve myself but I have accepted that I was not able to do it (defend his title) and I don't have any hurt feelings that someone took it.My time will come and I will use my opportunity. I'm very hungry to get back to the track and show what I'm capable of."

Van Niekerk has been participating in local competitions as he continues with his preparations.

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