If you haven’t been trapped in Narnia for the past couple of hours, you know that 24-year-old South African Wayde van Niekerk has smashed the 400m Olympic world record, and we could not be prouder. In honour of Wayde Week™, a thing we just invented, here are 12 things you need to know about our newest national treasure.
1. He comes from a very talented family. In fact, Wayde isn’t the only member of his family to win a medal in Rio – his cousin, Cheslin Kolbe, won bronze with the South African sevens rugby team a week ago. His mom, Odessa Swarts, was also a provincial record-setting sprinter.
2. He hasn’t dedicated his entire life to athletics. He’s currently continuing his education by studying marketing at the University of the Free State.
3. He was born and raised in Cape Town. Later, he attended the prestigious Grey College in the Free State.
— @WaydesWorld (@WaydesWorldSA) July 20, 2016
4. His coach is a 74-year-old great-grandmother. Ans Botha met Van Niekerk in 2012 when he began classes at the University of the Free State where she was a track coach.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 15, 2016
5. Yes, he happens to be a genuinely good guy. He recently donated R500k to the Newborns Groote Schuur Trust to aid the upgrade of that hospital’s neonatal unit. There’s a personal reason he chose to donate the money to the care of premature newborns – Wayde himself was born at 29 weeks and weighed just over 1kg. He spent several weeks in an incubator, and he was so sick that his parents didn’t think he would survive.
6. No, he is not single. He’s been in a relationship with Free State University junior lecturer Chesney Campbell for three years.
7. He flew ten family members to Rio to watch him compete. So, after his historic win, he definitely didn’t have to celebrate alone.
8. He’s the first man to win the Olympic 400m from Lane 8 since 1924. That’s how tough it is.
9. He’s taken what is arguably the most important selfie of our generation. It doesn’t get much better than this…
— TeamSouthAfrica (@teamsa16) August 5, 2016
10. He’s a massive football fan. Ronaldo is his hero.
Today should be a public holiday for us Ronaldo fans?. And Ronaldo should get a tax-free month.
— Wayde van Niekerk (@WaydeDreamer) July 10, 2016
11. Michael Johnson, who held the previous world record, set in 1999, is Wayde’s biggest fan. He told BBC, ‘I have never seen anything like that. It is amazing. That was a massacre by Van Niekerk. This young man has done something truly special. He could go under 43 seconds – I tried and failed.’
12. He really likes The Lion King. So, you know, you’re way more similar to an Olympic gold-medallist than you thought.
Can we please get the message out, for a real-life Lion King movie? Like Jungle Book
— Wayde van Niekerk (@WaydeDreamer) July 21, 2016
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