Van Niekerk ready to take on legendary Bolt's mantle

Wayde van Niekerk is ready to accept the responsibility of taking over from the great Usain Bolt as the poster boy for athletics after the World Championships.

Bolt's glittering career, which has yielded eight Olympic and 11 World Championships gold medals, is set for its swansong in London.

The sprint sensation has long been the benchmark not just for his work on the track, but also for his larger-than-life personality off it.

The Jamaican has tipped Van Niekerk, who smashed the world record en route to Olympic gold in the 400 metres at the Rio Games 12 months ago, to take on his mantle following his retirement.

And the South African is ready to receive the baton.

"It's a massive honour to be able to learn and rub shoulders with a great like Usain," he told reporters at an Adidas public event.

"His impact on the sport alone has been massive and now I'm having an opportunity to build a small relationship with him as I continue my journey. It's great to learn from these guys.

"It's definitely a good space to be in, it's great to see the guys supporting me as an athlete and backing the athlete I'm becoming and also the belief I'm receiving when it comes to what I'm doing shows I'm moving in a positive direction as an athlete.

"All of us have a lot of respect for Usain Bolt and gained a lot of inspiration and motivation from what he's done for track and field.

"It's a massive honour for me to being mentioned in the light I am right now, it's definitely an area I need to accept, take the responsibility and obviously take the backing that I get."

When asked if Bolt would be recognised as not only the world's greatest athlete but sportsman, he replied: "I think he already is. 

"I mean, what he has achieved for track and field alone these last few years has been massive."

Van Niekerk will attempt a 200 and 400m double in London, but will not have the chance to go up against Bolt who has opted to race in the 100m and 4x100m relay only.

Asked if he was disappointed to miss out on a glamour showdown, he replied: "I don't think you can really use the word 'disappointed'.

"It's just not my time as a competitor to compete against him, but that doesn't mean I can't go out there and do great things.

"It's time for us to honour Usain for what he's done."

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