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Rio 2016 Olympics South Africa's van Niekerk keeping cool in hunt for gold

But at Rio van Niekerk will focus solely on the 400m event and he believes keeping a cool head at the Olympic stadium will be vital if he is to prevail.

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Van Niekerk of South Africa wins the men's 400 metres final at the IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing play Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa (R) runs past Kirani James of Grenada (L) and Isaac Makwala of Botswana to win the men's 400 metres final at the IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China August 26, 2015. (REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

South Africa's sprinting ace Wayde van Niekerk believes his calm demeanour will be vital to filtering out pressure and raucous Brazilian crowds in a bid to grab a 400 metres gold medal.

Van Niekerk powered to a 400m gold at the 2015 Beijing world championships and this year made history by becoming the only man ever to have run 100m below 10 seconds, 200m below 20 seconds and 400m in less than 44 seconds.

But at Rio van Niekerk will focus solely on the 400m event and he believes keeping a cool head at the Olympic stadium will be vital if he is to prevail.

"I’m a very calm person so it won't be too hard for me to stay calm when it gets to the race," he told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

"I’ve proven before that I can handle the crowd and handle the situation around me."

Van Niekerk's sensational 400m final victory in Beijing was one of the highlights of the world championships, with three competitors running the race in under 44 seconds for the first time in history.

The win came at a cost for Van Niekerk as the 24-year-old collapsed on the track and was taken to hospital suffering from exhaustion.

Though doubtful he will need another ambulance in Rio, van Niekerk said the winner of Sunday's 400m final will most likely have to run below 44 seconds to seize a gold medal.

"It’s a top class (field) and it’s top class athletes that are running against one another," said van Niekerk. "We will spark the best out of one another."

So far this season only former Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt has run a sub-44 seconds time and van Niekerk sees the American as one of the main threats to his own medal aspirations.

"What he has achieved in track and field in the last decade speaks for itself. You can never take a man like that out of medal contention," said van Niekerk.

However, the South African also plans to feed off the pressure that comes along with racing against the likes of Merritt, who has won two golds and three silvers over 400m in world championships.

"I’m just going to use him and everyone else around me – whoever is in the final – to get my best performance out as well," he said.

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