Wayde, Chad can record rare Olympic history

WAYDE VAN NIEKERK
WAYDE VAN NIEKERK

WAYDE van Niekerk and Chad le Clos have the potential to create rare history for South Africa at the Olympics next year – if they were to win at least two medals each.

That would be the first time in 64 years that South Africa could boast two multi-medallists at a single Games.

Van Niekerk, who dipped below 20 seconds in the 200m in Switzerland on Tuesday for his fourth national record in as many outings, could have as many as four podium opportunities – at least on paper.

There is his favourite 400m, where he is the 11th fastest of all-time, and then one, or more, of the 200m and the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

If Van Niekerk were to achieve this feat in Brazil, he would be only the second South African trackand-field star to scoop two or more Olympic medals, the other being Bevil Rudd nearly a century ago.

Rudd won gold in the 400m, silver in the 4x400m and bronze in the 800m at Antwerp 1920.

Rudd’s winning time of 49.6sec is nearly six seconds slower than Van Niekerk’s 43.96 national mark.

Le Clos has already proved he can win multiple medals.

He picked up two at the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 world championships, both in the 100m and 200m butterfly.

And he heads into the World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia, next month looking to increase his repertoire.

Le Clos won four golds at the short-course world championships last year – in the 50m, 100m and 200m fly as well as the 200m freestyle – but racing over 25m laps is a different beast to the traditional Olympic-sized 50m lengths he faces in just over two weeks’ time.

He arguably has the best turn in the world, which is a massive advantage in short-course competition, but now he will have to utilise more of his pure swimming skills.

Le Clos failed to progress beyond the 50m fly heats in 2013, but his times have improved since then, although so far this year he is not even in the world top 20.

He is also way down the list in the 200m freestyle, even below teammate Myles Brown, who is 20th.

But national coach Graham Hill is confident. “We are looking good at this stage.”

South Africa has had three multi-medallists at a single Olympics since readmission in 1992, and all of them were swimmers.

Apart from Le Clos in 2012, freestyle sprinter Roland Schoeman took three medals (gold, silver and bronze) at Athens 2004 and Penny Heyns two breaststroke golds at Atlanta 1996.

But the last time two members of a South African Olympic team made two visits to the podium at the same Games was at Helsinki 1952.

Cyclists Raymond Robinson and Thomas Shardelow each won two medals that year, both of them in the now-defunct 2 000m tandem and Robinson in the 1 000m timetrial and Shardelow in the 4 000m team pursuit.

– David Isaacson

Leave a Reply