What's your game plan?
How do you turn a glaring disadvantage into a record-breaking run and collect a gold medal at the end of it? Wayde van Niekerk, the new 400m Olympic Champion and world record holder, on how environment, positive thinking and dreaming big has propelled him into the history books.
This is Wayde van Niekerk's game plan.
You call yourself @WaydeDreamer on Twitter and Instagram. How important is it to have a dream to work towards, whether you are an athlete or a businessperson?
For me it plays a massive role. I’ve always wanted more for myself, I’ve always envisioned a better life for myself and my family and obviously I link prayer with dreams. And when I pray I believe that’s my way of sharing my dreams with the Lord.
Do you think your dream is now a reality?
I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied. I’ll always want better, I’ll always want more. I’m only 24 years old and I’ve achieved so much and I’m so, so grateful for it and feel blessed. But once you achieve something, then you see that you have room for more, room for improvement, and I think it is really just the beginning of so much more that I can achieve.
What are the benefits of training and working alongside an athlete that is leading the field? How important is it to have high-caliber role models in your life to help you up your game?
I’m a big believer that your environment impacts your next step. I feel that where I put myself is important as that is where the next door will open. So if I surround myself with great athletes it will be easier for me to open doors to better performance.
I’m always trying to do better. That’s something I learn from my coach, from my team every day of the year and meeting others on my journey just makes me grateful and willing to learn from them, listen to their advice. I sit with Akani Simbine (100m South African sprinter) every season and we learn from each other, give each other advice. It’s just part of the whole process of building up good relationships and trying to surround myself with greatness and people that will help me become a better person.
Even when it comes to spoken word, I always try to speak about and listen to things that have a positive impact on my life instead of listening to something negative that causes you to get stuck in that moment for way longer than you should.
At the Rio Summer Olympics how did you turn your outside lane disadvantage into an advantage in the final of the 400m?
At that moment I saw myself in the finals and as another opportunity for me to go out there and improve myself as an athlete. I didn’t really think about the lane I was in. I didn’t allow my mind to dwell on the lane itself. To me it was just about the race and I needed to go out there and do the job. Whether I’m in lane one or lane eight it doesn’t matter. There’s 400 meters and that 400 meters needs to be run in a specific time. So at that very moment I didn’t really think about it until after the race and I was asked it and I was like ‘wow’ I actually did it in lane eight, but at that very moment I was not even entertaining the fact that I was in lane eight.
You’ve achieved an awful lot over the summer. How do you avoid complacency setting in?
This has been a lifetime process, not an overnight thing. I think a lot of people see you shine one night and they think that night made you but it’s actually been a long-term process and I don’t really think that has to change. I just have to continue living the life that I’ve been living to date.