Getty Images

Wayde van Niekerk talks Usain Bolt’s records as he awaits IAAF decision

Leave a comment

Wayde van Niekerk‘s long-term dreams are Usain Bolt‘s world records in the 100m and 200m, but first he eyes a more attainable goal: a change in the world championships schedule.

The IAAF council will this week consider Van Niekerk’s request for a shift in the worlds schedule to more easily allow him to race both the 200m and 400m at the meet in London in August, according to the Times of London.

Van Niekerk said in January that he was petitioning the IAAF. The current worlds schedule has the 200m first round taking place about two and a half hours before the 400m final.

There is precedent. The 1996 and 2016 Olympic schedules were changed for Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix‘s double attempts, though Felix failed to make the Rio team in the 200m.

Van Niekerk’s credentials are comparable to Johnson and Felix. He shattered Johnson’s 400m world record of 43.18, clocking 43.03 at the Rio Games out of lane 8 in August. Van Niekerk, coached by a great-grandmother, worried during the one-lap final that a buggy hamstring would bite him around the 200-meter mark as it had in the first round and semifinals. It never did.

Van Niekerk said in January he plans to double regardless of if the schedule is changed, according to South Africa media.

Van Niekerk is not expected to race Bolt at worlds, since Bolt said he will sit out the 200m as he cruises toward retirement. Still, the 24-year-old from Bloemfontein will be asked Bolt questions for the rest of his career.

“A lot of people say, ‘Wayde, you need to be more of an entertainer,'” Van Niekerk said, according to the Times. “I am not that type, but I see qualities I share with Usain Bolt, and that brings a form of comfort even if it won’t sell T-shirts.”

Van Niekerk specifically said in September he dreamed of being as fast as Bolt in the 200m.

“I am a 100, 200 and 400 athlete so will dream for every record there is,” Van Niekerk said, according to the Times on Tuesday. “What sort of athlete would I be if I didn’t?”

Van Niekerk is the only man in history to break 44 seconds for the 400m, 20 seconds for the 200m and 10 seconds for the 100m. His 100m and 200m personal bests — 9.98 and 19.94 — are well off Bolt’s world records from 2009 — 9.58 and 19.19.

So while he will likely be a strong 400m favorite at worlds, he may be a 200m underdog behind the likes of Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada.

In other Rio reflections to the Times, Van Niekerk said a rush in South Africa to associate his Olympic 400m title with race via the hashtag #ColouredExcellence “broke his heart.” (“Coloured” is not necessarily an offensive term in South Africa.)

“It shocked me that as soon as the flag was off my shoulders it became about race,” Van Niekerk said, according to the report. “Didn’t they see what I had done? In South Africa it is a problem how easily people want to classify you racially. People want to put themselves in groups but then go to work with black and white people. Isn’t that racist?

“I got abused a lot. I got called traitor because I didn’t accept I was coloured. Black people told me I was living a blind life, but I know what’s going on around me. I just don’t want to support it. It would be better if we all lived as South Africans.”

The day after Van Niekerk’s gold in Rio, his agent received a phone call from Oscar Pistorius wishing to congratulate his countryman from prison, according to the Times. Last July, Pistorius was sentenced to six years in prison for murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. Pistorius became the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Van Niekerk set to race at Usain Bolt’s home finale

U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. and Great Britain go head-to-head in a track and field meet on July 21 at the London Olympic Stadium.

“The Meet” will include nine running, jumping, hurdles and relay events and last two hours. Specific events and athletes will be announced early next year.

The U.S. topped the overall medal standings at every Olympics and world outdoor championships since 2004.

Great Britain is one of three countries to earn at least five medals at every Olympics and worlds since 2007, joining the U.S. and Kenya.

British athletes made six podiums at the just-completed worlds at the London Olympic Stadium, including in all four relays. The other two medals came from Mo Farah, who is moving to road racing and marathons after this season.

“The Meet” is similar to swimming’s “Duel in the Pool,” a biennial head-to-head competition between the U.S. and rival Australia from 2003 through 2007 and between the U.S. and Europe between 2009 and 2015.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Ten memorable races from worlds

Five women’s gymnasts to watch at P&G Championships

Getty Images
Leave a comment

As Rio gold medalists decide on their futures, this week’s P&G Championships mark the first showcase for a new class of U.S. women’s gymnasts.

For the first time since 2008, nobody in the nationals field in Anaheim has competed at an Olympics. Usually, a gymnast or two carries over into the post-Olympic year, like Bridget Sloan in 2009 and Kyla Ross in 2013.

But this year, the feeling is akin to 2005, when no woman (or man) from the 2004 Athens Games chalked up at nationals.

Back then, a 15-year-old Nastia Liukin, who had already starred in a commercial during the 2004 Olympics, made her senior nationals debut and won the all-around. Three years later, Liukin won the Olympic all-around in Beijing.

There will be talk this week of finding the next Liukin, or Gabby Douglas, or Simone Biles, who, like Liukin, won her senior nationals debut the year after the Olympics.

“Some of them [from Rio], hopefully Simone, will be coming back, but I think this is a great opportunity for some of these girls to go out there and prove that they’re just as ready to compete at a world championships,” said Liukin, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “They have to step up a little bit and kind of become the leaders.”

MORE: P&G Champs broadcast schedule

Gymnasts this week are vying to impress new U.S. national team coordinator Valeri Liukin (Nastia’s father). The four-woman roster for October’s worlds, where there is no team event, will be named after a selection camp later this summer.

Five gymnasts to watch at the P&G Championships:

Ragan Smith
Rio Olympic alternate
2017 AT&T American Cup champion

The Texan performed admirably in her first senior season in 2016, placing fifth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. Her best events are balance beam and floor exercise, but the U.S. needed uneven bars help in Rio. So she went to the Games as an alternate at age 15, making headlines for this photo with 6-foot-11 basketball player DeAndre Jordan.

Smith, coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal, emerged this year as the U.S.’ most reliable all-arounder and clear favorite this week. She won the American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. A definite all-around medal favorite at October’s worlds.

Ashton Locklear
Rio Olympic alternate
2014 World team champion

Locklear was beaten for the Olympic team bars specialist spot by Madison Kocian after nearly matching Kocian in scores in four routines between last year’s P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old is not considered an all-around threat this week but is favored to make the world team based on her bars ability. She was fourth in the event at 2014 Worlds.

Riley McCusker
2017 Jesolo Trophy all-around winner

McCusker, who has the same coach as Laurie Hernandez, struggled at the American Cup in her first senior competition, falling on bars and beam. She rebounded to win Jesolo a month later and remain in the mix as the No. 2 U.S. all-arounder (Smith wasn’t at Jesolo).

However, McCusker was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July and said she expected to be back to peak form in September, not August.

Morgan Hurd
2017 Stuttgart World Cup bronze medalist

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware.

Liukin, asked to name gymnasts to watch this week, started with Hurd, whom she says has the highest floor exercise start value in the world. “She could be capable of winning a world all-around medal and possibly become a world champion on floor,” Liukin said.

Jade Carey
2017 U.S. Classic vault winner

The U.S. has a tradition of sending a vault specialist to worlds, but neither of the top vaulters from the last Olympic cycle — Biles nor MyKayla Skinner — is competing this week. Enter Carey, a 17-year-old who wasn’t an elite gymnast before this season.

Carey performed the difficult Amanar vault at July’s U.S. Classic, where she was the only gymnast to perform two vaults, which is required to compete for medals on the event at worlds.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Aly Raisman announces book details