Though he was reluctant to include the South African sensation among the all-time greats, former Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt said on Monday he had known in advance that Wayde van Niekerk had the potential to break new ground.
Speaking ahead of an appearance at the Puma School of Speed track meeting in Roodepoort, Bolt rattled off his personal list of the top five sprinters in history, with the retired legend placing himself at the top.
While the list included former world record holders Michael Johnson, Maurice Greene and Asafa Powell, as well as four-time Olympic medallist Don Quarrie, versatile speedster Van Niekerk did not make the grade.
Nevertheless, Bolt said he had long held the belief that part-time training partner Van Niekerk could shatter records, as he did when he broke Johnson’s global 400m mark at the Rio Olympics and again last season when he set a 300m world best.
“The first year he came to train with us in Jamaica (in 2016) I told my coach he could break the world record,” Bolt said.
“So I wasn’t surprised when he broke it. He’s a brilliant athlete.”
The eight-time Olympic champion attended the Sun Met in Cape Town at the weekend and joined the Mamelodi Sundowns football team for a training session on Monday.
Before departing SA shores, Bolt spent some time engaging with young track athletes at Ruimsig Stadium as an ambassador for the School of Speed international initiative, and he shared some advice.
“I worked hard, stayed dedicated and stayed true to what I wanted,” said the charismatic star, who retired from competition last year with his 100m and 200m world records intact.
“No matter the setbacks I faced, I was always confident in my coach, the team around me and myself,” Bolt said.
“I always knew if I pushed myself as hard as I could, then I could be great. That’s the secret.”