Athletics

South Africa’s van Niekerk claims Summer Universiade was platform for international success

Men’s 400 metres world record holder Wayde van Niekerk claimed the Summer Universiade had helped him achieve international success.

The South African competed at the Kazan 2013 Summer Universiade, where he failed to reach the men’s 400m final.

He celebrated a maiden international medal as part of the South African men’s 4x400m relay team which came away from the university sport event with a bronze.

The 26-year-old shot to fame when he broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record by clocking 43.03sec at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to win gold.

He has also claimed back-to-back world titles over the distance, as well as silver in the men’s 200m at London 2017.

In an interview with the International University Sports Federation (FISU), van Niekerk claimed Kazan had proved an important step in his career.

“Kazan definitely laid a massive platform for me for my upcoming years as I ran competitive times in races that boosted me for the 2014 season,” van Niekerk said.

“So, it was a massive platform for me in terms of confidence and being able to compete.

“It was of a very high standard – at any international event, the athletes are the best at that moment and you’re the best in your country.

“Even though it’s at university level, it is very competitive.

“Many of these students end up becoming professional athletes, so it’s a great platform.

“Back then for the level I was at, it was needed, it was something I needed and something I enjoyed experiencing which then played a massive role in me achieving my goal.

“It’s something I’m really grateful for, the fact that I was able to compete internationally – anything on the international stage at that level of competition is really good so I was grateful from day one and it definitely helped me.”

The 26-year-old is on the comeback trail, having missed the entire 2018 season following a knee injury.

He suffered a torn meniscus and a torn anterior cruciate ligament while taking part in a celebrity touch rugby match.

Ahead of the Naples 2019 Summer Universiade, van Niekerk encouraged student athletes to make the most of participating in the Italian city.

“My message is for you to go out there and enjoy yourselves and not be too hard on yourself,” he said.

“You’re still young, you have got so much awaiting you, just enjoy the people around you.

“Interact, communicate with one another, learn about other cultures and countries, and just enjoy it.

“Don’t set too high expectations for yourself as you have still got your whole life to live.”

Naples 2019 is due to take place between July 3 and 14.

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