Usain Bolt of Jamaica (R) chats with Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa during a press conference in Kingston, on June 8, 2017.
JOHANNESBURG – Sprint legend Usain Bolt on Wednesday said there is potential for SA’s Wayde van Niekerk to further improve his 400m world record.
The retired Jamaican legend, the best ever sprinter as the current holder of the world records in both the 100m and 200m events, said he was not surprised when Van Niekerk ran a new world record of 43.03 seconds in the 400m at the Rio Olympics in 2016 to win Olympic gold.
“I wasn’t really surprised, the first year when we came to Jamaica [in 2016] I was saying to my coach he can break the world record with ease,” said Bolt at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium in Johannesburg, where he was making a guest appearance in front of a passionate crowd of local athletes and spectators.
“So when it happened I wasn’t surprised that he broke the world record, but that he nearly ran 42 seconds. Nobody knows what the possibilities are with times, you can’t set limits for yourself.”
When asked why South Africa did not have a 4x100m relay team with top athletes like Anaso Jobodwana, Akani Simbine and Van Niekerk at their disposal, Bolt could not understand why Athletics SA (ASA) could not put together a team.
“I don’t know the answer to that question. Sometimes you just can’t find four people to put together. It’s tricky, there are young sprinters coming up now, so maybe at the next Olympics.”
Bolt, 31, did not hesitate to name himself as the best sprinter of all time.
“I’m at the top of the list of course. Then you have Michael Johnson, Maurice Green, Asafa Powell and Donald Quarrie. That’s my list.”
His advice to youngsters in South African athletics was simple.
“What i did was work hard, no matter the injuries and setbacks I was always confident in myself, my coach and support team. If the new guys want to be as great as me, they just have to work hard.”
SA minister of sport and recreation Thulas Nxesi was also in attendance, and said Bolt remained an inspiration to the world.
“Bolt is regarded as the best sprinter of all-time,” said Nxesi.
“Your records remain unbroken, we’ve all watched you breaking all these records with pride and perseverance. You are an inspiration to young and old world wide.”
ASA president Aleck Skhosana thanked Bolt for visiting South Africa.
“We welcome the man who has achieved any and everything in track and field. This is one of the most important days in Africa to have one of its sons to plough the seed in athletics. In years to come you’ll see the mushrooming of your visit to South Africa. You will change the lives of these youngsters.”