They say life can change at any given moment. For Wayde van Niekerk, his life changed in 43.03 seconds — when he set a world record at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Born prematurely, introvert Van Niekerk later struggled to come out of his shell. None of that stopped him becoming a global superstar — he bared it all on Thursday night at Montecasino in Fourways, Johannesburg, at the premiere of the documentary: "43.03 — The Wayde Van Niekerk Story".
HuffPost attended the premiere, along with a stellar cast of SA's finest sports stars — including Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, Olympic champion Caster Semenya and Protea JP Duminy.
Our dreams can become reality.Wayde van Niekerk
Van Niekerk spoke to HuffPost about his difficult journey, the honour having his story shared with the country, and how difficult opening up for the documentary was for him.
"It has been a privilege, and I feel really blessed and honoured to be able to tell my story to the country," he said.
He said making the doccie, which started in 2016 before the Rio Olympics, was a challenge, given his shy nature.
A phenomenal story.Caster Semeya
"It was something I struggled with in the beginning — just being able to climb out of my shell was something that took quite a bit. It wasn't easy for me, but when we [he and his sponsors, T-Systems] worked together, it enabled me to come out of my shell."
T-Systems, which has been Van Niekerk's technology partner since 2016, was the company that put the actual documentary together, starting two weeks before Rio.
Semenya, herself a renowned record-breaker, described the documentary as "a phenomenal story".
"As a friend, I think it was a good story to tell — from where he came from, to the difficulties he had. From a human point of view, I can relate to the story. I will definitely watch it again," she told HuffPost.
When asked whether we should expect a documentary about our 800m champion, Semenya laughed and said: "Each and every athlete's dream is to tell their story, but for me it is premature. I still have a long way to go".
The documentary's focus is on defying the odds and making one's dream a reality, charting Van Niekerk's journey from athletics' hidden gem to global superstar.
The 400m star closed by saying: "I mean, I feel it is a massive blessing — coming from a place where dreams are something you could just think and speak off, and now it's a reality. Our dreams can become reality."
The Olympic champion is still recovering from injury, but said he expects to be fully back in action by 2019 — promising that after watching his documentary, he will be coming back stronger.