RIO DE JANEIRO — Three-times 100m Olympic king Usain Bolt is keen to take on SA’s new 400m Games champion Wayde van Niekerk.
Sunday night at the Rio Games was supposed to be reserved exclusively for the Jamaican superstar as he claimed unprecedented history by becoming the first man to win three consecutive sprint titles.
But Van Niekerk, 24, muscled into Bolt’s limelight after smashing the world record in dominant fashion less than 30 minutes before the 100m final — and Bolt was happy to share centre stage with him.
Bolt, 29, even interrupted a TV interview after winning his gold to go over and congratulate Van Niekerk with an embrace.
The world record-holder over 100m and 200m is friends with his 400m counterpart.
The pair got to know each other when Van Niekerk and 100m star Akani Simbine spent two weeks training with Bolt, his teammates and coach Glen Mills in Jamaica in June.
“It was brilliant,” Bolt said of Van Niekerk’s record. “I was running back and they were (asking) who’s going to win?
“And I was ‘Van Niekerk is definitely going to win from lane eight’. The way he runs, he’s going to be brilliant. And when he got the world record I was like ‘wow’.
“I told him in Jamaica … we were having a conversation and I was saying my coach says you’re probably the only guy right now, other than me, that can break this (400m) world record because he got speed and he got strength.
“He came out here to prove me right …”
Van Niekerk also recalled the conversation in Kingston.
“He told me back in Jamaica that ‘you would break the world record’ and he came to me after the race and he said ‘I told you you can do it’.”
Asked if he would like to take on Bolt over 200m, Van Niekerk replied: “I would love to race him one day.”
The he added with a smile: “When I’m big …
“I would even love to run 100m with the big dogs one day,” added Van Niekerk, the only man in history to have dipped below 10sec in the 100m, 20sec in the 200m and 44sec in the 400m.
Bolt was asked at a press conference if he would consider taking on Van Niekerk over 300m.
“I think that would be a good race. This year I was hoping I was in good shape and my coach told me they were going to put on a 300m.
“I wasn’t in the best of shape but I really, really wanted to be in that race so hopefully next season, if he’s in good shape and my coach puts the meet on again, I’ll get the chance to run.
“I would really like to compete against him over 300m,” said Bolt, whose 30.97 is the second-fastest over the distance, a non-Olympic event. Van Niekerk, competing in that race two months ago, posted the third-best time of 31.03.
The 30.85 world best belongs to Michael Johnson, the man whose 17-year-old 400m record Van Niekerk scuppered.
But Bolt insisted he was not interested in doing the 400m.
“If it was up to my coach, I’d be running 400m right now, but I’ve always bobbed and weaved and trying ways not to.
“He’s always said I could break the 400m world record because I have the speed and I have the stamina.”