South Africa’s own 400m world champion Wayde van Niekerk is ready to bring home Olympic gold – but he won’t do it without his family.
The athletics star from Kraaifontein has paid for flights and accommodation for 10 family members to join him in Rio de Janeiro this week.
Wayde is flying his parents, grandparents, girlfriend and five other relatives over to Brazil where they will be cheering him on to gold.
The excited family flew out of Cape Town International Airport yesterday, and will be in the stands on Friday night when Wayde runs his first heats, competing against blitzes like Grenada’s Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt of the USA.
Dad Wayne, 45, tells Daily Voice: “Wayde wanted to have his family by his side and bought 10 tickets for us to be there when he starts breaking records.”
The boat builder adds: “He says he needs his family’s support in the pavilion. He is actually more excited about us being in Rio than he is about the races.
“We are not staying far from the stadium so he will definitely pop in for visits.”
Mom Odessa, 42, an athletics coach in Bloemfontein, is certain her fleet-footed son is going to run rings around the opposition and bag gold.
“He worked very hard for this and I know he will only give his very best. I’m very excited about this trip because we don’t get to see a lot of him these days,” she says.
“When it’s winter here in SA, he goes to Europe for six months to train there.
“I spoke to him earlier this week and he said he and the others have no problems where they stay.”
Wayde’s girlfriend of three years, Chesney Campbell, 24, who lectures at the Free State University, can’t wait to see her berk.
“I’m looking forward to cheering him on when he sets those new world records,” she says excitedly.
It will also be oupa Wathen van Niekerk’s, 66, first flight overseas.
Wathen, who lives in Scottsville, Kraaifontein, says: “The only place I’ve ever flown to was Namibia. Me and his ouma Sophie can see what Wayde means to our people and our country. I especially bought myself a huge SA flag to show oupa se seun we are here!”
Dad Wayne says there’s definitely “benefits” to having a famous, talented son.
He jokes: “Just a month ago I was with Wayde in Durban for the African Games, and I’ve rubbed shoulders with the likes of runners like Frankie Fredericks and Caster Semenya.”
Wayde’s uncle Donovan de Vos, 49, and his wife Lorraine from Scottsville are also tagging along.
Donovan says: “We are very proud of Wayde, he didn’t let his titles go to his head. He is still the same boy who comes and visits us.”