Wayde van Niekerk may find it tough going on the road to recovery, but he can take a bit of consolation after receiving some serious love and admiration from American Justin Gatlin on Wednesday.
Addressing the media after arriving in the country the night before, ahead of the Liquid Telecom Grand Prix meeting in Pretoria on Thursday, Gatlin revealed he held a secret admiration for the South African sprinter.
“It is just poetry in motion watching him run, I can tell you that, watching him coming down that straightway it is just seared into my mind,” Gatlin said.
“It seems like he just glides like a gazelle when he is bringing it home. It is just amazing to watch. “I’m definitely a fan of his.”
Gatlin was asked whether he considered the versatile Van Niekerk to be a sprinter, after retired Jamaican icon Usain Bolt questioned the South African’s credentials over the shorter distances on his visit to the country in January.
“He is not really a sprinter, is he? He wants to be a sprinter but he is not really a sprinter,” Bolt had said.
“Talk to his coach and hear what his coach says.”
But Gatlin did not share Bolt’s sentiments, pointing to Van Niekerk’s historic run at the Rio Olympics were he shattered legendary American sprinter Michael Johnson’s world record with a time of 43.03 seconds.
“When you run the world record in the 400m from lane eight you can be whatever you want to be,” Gatlin said.
“If he comes out and says he is a javelin thrower, hey I am waiting at the javelin line to see what he is going to do.
“There are different kinds of sprinters. There is the pure speed, there is speed endurance, then you have straight endurance and power.”
Gatlin will back into the blocks against resurgent South African speedster Anaso Jobodwana in the 150m race at Tuks Stadium, at the second leg of the inaugural Grand Prix series.