World Championship gold medalist, sprinter Wayde Van Niekerk (23) came home from the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Championships in Beijing and some people on social media said he should have received an official welcome.
He won the men’s 400m final race with a time of 43,48 seconds, making him the “fourth fastest athlete in the event and the quickest non-American athlete,” according to the Mail & Guardian. “It was not much of a big deal really,” laughs the athlete when we asked about his arrival at the Cape Town International Airport. “As long as my mom was there I am happy.”
We spoke to him about his life, career and Kanye West, among other things.
All love in Bloemfontein
Although Wayde was born in Cape Town, his family now lives in Bloemfontein where, he says, he received a hero’s welcome from the locals.
His mother, Odessa Swarts, a former athlete herself, and his dad, Wayne van Niekerk, have always supported him because of their love for sports. “It’s genetic,” says Wayde. My mother was an athlete. My dad loved sports and my family is very sports-orientated. This is why I’m doing what I am doing now. Because of them.”
Wayde is currently a third year marketing student at the University of the Free State. He says it’s challenging to do sports while studying but having a supporting team and being organised has helped him through. “I try to be very organised, I plan everything,” he says.
On Kanye West, shoes and Fikile Mbalula’s tweet
Although he doesn’t reveal a name, Wayde says he’s in a relationship and that he shares a birthday with his girlfriend. The two celebrate their birthday by travelling together, whenever his schedule allows.
Wayde enjoys listening to hip hop, his favourite artists are Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole and Kanye West. “Actually, I’m a huge fan of his work despite what people say about him,” he says of Kanye. “I think he’s very respectful and whatever he does is just an act for the world. Deep down he seems like a very nice guy.”
Apart from sports and music, the athlete’s other love is for shoes. “Lately I’m trying to just look good. I love clothes too”
Wayde made nearly R798 000 for his 43,48 seconds record and he says he will invest the money into property and use it wisely while still doing sports.
— RSA Min of Sport (@MbalulaFikile) August 26, 2015
Wayde ends off by thanking the people who have supported him in his career. “I’m truly grateful for the support I have been getting from everyone during the championships, from Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula sending out a tweet to congratulate me, to the online advertisement by Nando’s and everyone who has been there, I’m grateful.”
Watch Wayde breaking his record below:
Follow Wayne on Twitter: @WaydeDreamer
Follow me on Twitter @LucilleDyosi
*An earlier version of this article stated that Wayde was an Olympic gold medalist instead of a World Championships winner. The article has since been edited. The headline has also been changed from “Meet Wayde Van Niekerk, the South African athlete who broke a world record but didn’t get a hero’s welcome” to “Meet South African star athlete Wayde van Niekerk”.