Wayde van Niekerk ready to inherit throne from Usain Bolt

Wayde van Niekerk is expected to become the most famous athlete in the world. ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

South African sensation Wayde van Niekerk is targeting Usain Bolt's 100 metres and 200m world records as he prepares to assume the mantle of the planet's leading athlete.

The 24-year-old from Cape Town is already the fastest man of all time over 400m: he stunned the Rio Olympics last year by clocking 43.03 seconds and eclipsing the great Michael Johnson. Now, as Jamaican hero Bolt begins to wind down his career, van Niekerk has his aim trained on becoming the greatest sprinter in history.

Van Niekerk told The Times: "I am a 100, 200 and 400 athlete so will dream for every record there is. What sort of an athlete would I be if I didn't? Speed is why I do track and field. I love going fast. That's where my alter ego takes over. I live for speed. That's the draw for me."

"Every time I ran in the heats and semi in Rio I felt my hamstring at the 200 metres mark. I thought, 'Please don't come, I don't want to feel the pain.' In the race I spent 200 metres waiting for that feeling.

"When it didn't come I thought I would push harder. The presence of my family and fiancée played a massive role. I even completed a victory lap when normally I go to the locker room and close myself in to die."

Van Niekerk is the first man in history to run 100m in under 10 seconds, 200m in under 20 seconds and 400m in under 44 seconds -- but he could have to choose between the latter two disciplines should Tuesday's IAAF meeting rule against changing the schedule of August's World Championships in London.

With the 30-year-old Bolt set to bring the curtain down on his remarkable time in global competition by campaigning in the 100m at the same marquee event, his heir-apparent and one-time training partner is the man leading the tributes.

Van Niekerk said: "For a long time I could admire the athlete [Bolt] and entertainer, but get to know him and you realise he is a good, true person.

"I feed off the way you are around people. Little interactions matter more than achievements. A lot of people say, 'Wayde, you need to be more of an entertainer'. I am not that type but I see qualities I share with Usain Bolt, and that brings a form of comfort even if it won't sell T-shirts."

Van Niekerk is coached by Anna Botha, a 74-year-old great grandmother he affectionately refers to as 'Tannie Ans' -- loosely translated as 'Aunt Annie.'