South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk celebrates after winning the men's 400-meter final at the Olympics. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

With Usain Bolt speeding off toward retirement, Wayde van Niekerk could be the new face of track and field.

Here's a few things you may not have known about the 24-year-old South African, the new Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 400 meters.

Van Niekerk's shattering of Michael Johnson's world record from 1999 was a big surprise, but he wasn't a complete unknown before Rio. He won the world championships last year with such a lung-busting effort that he left on a strecher. Van Niekerk often runs himself to the point of complete exhaustion, he says.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Van Niekerk and Bolt know each other pretty well. The South African spent some time in Jamaica training with Bolt just before the Olympics. And Bolt interrupted a media interview at the Olympic Stadium to go and congratulate Van Niekerk for his stunning run.

Johnson also sent this message:


Van Niekerk is a big fan of Liverpool soccer club in England. He prepared for the race in Rio by watching a Liverpool game (they won). Now some of Liverpool's top players are fans of him:



Van Niekerk is the holder of one stat that even Bolt hasn't be able to match: He's the only man ever to run under 10 seconds for the 100 meters, under 20 for the 200 and under 44 for the 400.

Asked if Van Niekerk could challenge him in the 200, maybe at Bolt's swansong at the world champs next year, Bolt laughed and said: "Can't beat me over 200 meters. I'm not worried about that."

Would be fun to see them go at it, though.

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)