In front of an energetic Rio crowd, Van Niekerk broke the men’s first track and field world record the 400metre race in 2016 with a blistering 43.03sec from the unlikely position of lane eight, destroying the two previous Olympic champions in the process.
Michael Johnson’s towering mark of 43.18sec had stood since 1999 and rarely been seriously challenged. It looked as if he had gone off naively fast through the first 200m, and the expectation was that Kirani James, the defending champion from Grenada, and LaShawn Merritt of the United States would win but it was not to be. The South African went faster in the second half of the race, slingshot into the home straight in a blur of limbs. His winning margin against one of the fastest 400m fields ever assembled appeared ridiculous. It was, as Johnson said on television commentary, “a massacre”.
“I believed I could get the world record. I’ve dreamed of this medal forever,” said Van Niekerk. “I am blessed.”
His rivals were somewhere between stunned and aghast afterwards. “I knew the time was going to be fast, but I didn’t think it was going to be 43.0 fast. It is what it is. You take it,” said Merritt. “He ran his heart out.”
What’s more inspiring is his grandmother of 74 years is his trainer granny power. Congratulations Wayde van Niekerk