South African track and field sprinter [200m and 400m] and Olympic gold medallist – Wayde van Niekerk is targeting to become the first man to break the 43-second barrier for the 400 metres event.

Van Niekerk won the gold medal [400m] at the 2016 Olympic Games with a world record time of 43.03 seconds, but has been quite inactive since damaging his knee ligaments in October 2017 while playing in a celebrity touch rugby match that preceded a South Africa-New Zealand rugby Test in Cape Town.

The 28-year-old sprinter is clawing back to full fitness and has set a new benchmark for himself going into the Japan Olympics and that is to break the record he last set in Rio.

“I have this deep desire to be out of reach,” he told the BBC.

“And after coming out of a period of somewhat suffering, it makes me more hungry.”

“It’s definitely a priority for me, because why am I still here if I’m not seeking growth?” van Niekerk quizzed.

“Growth should be improving my times within the 42-second range. That’s where my mind is at; that’s where my heart is at.

“Seeing you [Johnson] set a standard [43.18sec in Seville in 1999] of setting a record of 17 years – I want to double that.

“That’s just the competitor in me and for me to settle for anything less than that would mean I’m doing an injustice to myself and the team working for me.”

In 2016, Van Niekerk became the first sprinter in history to have run the 100 metres in under 10 seconds, 200 metres in under 20 seconds, and 400 metres in under 44 seconds.