Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

‘I’m happy for him’: Van Niekerk full of praise for Richardson

Richardson was delighted to beat Van Niekerk, an icon of the sport, to win his first national senior title.

Humble in defeat, global star Wayde van Niekerk was full of praise for sprint sensation Benjamin Richardson at the weekend.

Richardson stunned the 400m world record holder in the 200m final at the SA Athletics Championships in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, winning gold in 20.16 seconds to equal the qualifying standard for this year’s Olympic Games.

Van Niekerk, a three-time national champion and former World Championships medallist over the 200m distance, took second place in 20.31.

“Benjamin has worked hard to qualify (for the Paris Games) so congratulations to him,” said Van Niekerk, who has already qualified for the showpiece in the 400m event.

“It’s always exciting to see the gents grow, and if you’re losing to someone who is just running it’s one thing, but he (Richardson) is someone who is really improving and I’m happy for him.

“We have quite a good relationship. He comes to me a lot for advice and that sort of thing, and it’s a blessing to see him growing.”

Bright future

Richardson, still only 20 years old, has rocketed through the ranks over the last few years.

A four-time medallist at the World Athletics U-20 Championships, he finished second last season behind SA record holder Akani Simbine in the 100m final at the national championships.

Over the weekend, however, he made a real breakthrough by taking Van Niekerk’s scalp, proving he has the potential to achieve medals at major global senior championships.

This year he will do well just to reach the final at the Olympic Games, but Richardson insists he will give it everything in the French capital in an attempt to put up a fight.

He was also delighted to beat Van Niekerk, an icon of the sport, to win his first national senior title.

“I’ve been doing a lot and training hard to get here, but it’s surreal. Three years ago I ran against my role model (Van Niekerk) for the first time, and now I’m toe-to-toe with him and I’ve beaten him,” Richardson said.

“This makes me happy and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I promise at the Olympics I will not go out without a fight.”

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athletics Wayde van Niekerk