South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk stunned the world on Monday morning when he dashed to victory in the 400m final in Rio; launching a new world record time of 43.03.
In front of an uproarious Rio crowd, the athlete annihilated two previous Olympic champions to break the first men’s track and field world record with an unbelievable 43.03sec from the unlikely position of lane eight.
Van Niekerk rocketed from the blocks on lane 8 when the gun went; out-running defending champion Kirani James, from Grenada and America’s LaShawn Merritt; who fought like pitbulls in the center lanes to win the race.
James set off fast at the start of the race, but Van Niekerk [in lane eight] dashed off with greet speed around the final bend to beat his previous personal best by 0.45 and win his first Olympic medal.
The 24-year-old athlete’s superhuman victory has now smashed Michael Johnson’s 1999 record by 0.15 seconds in the process – Johnson’s matchless mark of 43.18sec had stood since 1999 and has not been seriously challenged.
Wayde Van Niekerk’s smashing victory saw defending champion Kirani James took silver in 43.76; while American LaShawn Merritt walked home with the bronze medal (43.85).
Wayde Van Niekerk Has Fulfilled His Dream
Though considered least likely for gold [among James and Merritt]; the South African said after his triumph that he believed he could get to the world record.
Asked him whether people can trust his record after his triumph; Van Niekerk replied: “I believed I could get the world record. I’ve dreamed of this medal forever.
“You can’t be anyone’s favourite. What I can do is control the controllables, and stay as disciplined as I can be, and focused on goals and life.”
Van Niekerk hails from Cape Town, and he carried South Africa’s flag at the opening ceremony. He is not a greenhorn in the athletics world; having won James and Merritt at the World Championships in Beijing last year.
Remarkably, the South African gold winner is coached by a 74-year-old great-grandmother, Ans Botha.