At the 2016 Olympics, he lowered Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record by 15 seconds to win the gold medal.
But the 24-year-old South African has a love-hate relationship with the distance.
“I hate the 400m,” he said to France’s Le Figaro, who provided an English transcript of the interview to NBC. “I hate it because I know what it does to my body. But I love it for what it does for my life.”
Van Niekerk has expressed an interest in the shorter sprints, the 100m and 200m. He trained with Usain Bolt, the world-record holder in both events, in Jamaica prior to the Rio Games. After Bolt won the Olympic 100m gold medal, he paused his victory celebration to find Van Niekerk and congratulate him on breaking the 400m world record.
“My dream is try to get where Usain Bolt is in 200m,” Van Niekerk said. “He’s a massive inspiration and motivation for me to improve myself because I know it is possible.”
Van Niekerk’s best 200m time in 2016, 20.02 seconds, ranks 15th this year.
Bolt was asked whether Van Niekerk could break his 200m world record of 19.19 seconds.
“If [he] can clean up his technique on the corner, maybe he can do it,” Bolt said to Tim Layden.
Van Niekerk is the only person to have run sub-10 seconds in the 100m, sub-20 in the 200m and sub-44 in the 400m. – NBC