Wayde breaks record ‘in style’

2016-08-17 06:00

RIO DE JANEIRO. – South African Wayde van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson’s long-standing 400 m record when he stormed to Olympic gold on Sunday (14/08).

Van Niekerk, running in the unfavoured lane eight, blasted off the final corner to time 43.03, a whole 0.15 quicker than the previous world best, set by Johnson in Seville in 1999, a record that had taken on a mythical standing.

Defending champion Kirani James of Grenada took silver in 43.76, with American LaShawn Merritt taking bronze (43.85).

“I’m happy to be part of a race that made history. We have put this sport on a pedestal,” said James.

Despite Van Niekerk being world champion, his underwhelming heat runs had meant all eyes were on James and Merritt.

The Grenadian set off fast in lane five, Merritt on his coat-tails on the inside, with Van Niekerk running solo out wide.

The trio had produced one of the races of the year in the 400 m final at the 2015 World Championship in Beijing, all going under 44 seconds as Van Niekerk emerged victorious.

It was the same again in Rio, Van Niekerk exploding off the last bend and holding his form through the line in an extraordinary run as all eight runners finished under 44.61.

“I have never seen anything like that,” Johnson told the BBC, for whom he works as an analyst.

“It is amazing. That was a massacre by Van Niekerk.

“This young man has done something truly special. He could go under 43 seconds. I tried and failed.

“That was some style he broke it in,” Johnson said of Van Niekerk, who made sprint history by becoming the first athlete to dip under benchmark times in the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m.

Having already clocked 19.94 and 43.48 in the 200 m and 400 m, Van Niekerk timed 9.98 in the 100 m in March to set up an athletics first.

Merritt, who was Olympic champion at the Beijing Games in 2008 before serving a 21-month ban for testing positive for a banned steroid in 2010, hailed Van Niekerk.

“It was a crazy race, a great moment in history. The world record was broken, the best man won,” Merritt said. – Sport24

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