Wayde conquers!

2016-08-17 06:00
SUPERSTAR: Wayde van Niekerk, South Africa’s middle-distance and sprint track star, in front of the board showing his new world record in the men’s 400 m (43.03 seconds). He set the new record on Sunday (14/08) at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil. Photo:  Gallo Images

SUPERSTAR: Wayde van Niekerk, South Africa’s middle-distance and sprint track star, in front of the board showing his new world record in the men’s 400 m (43.03 seconds). He set the new record on Sunday (14/08) at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil. Photo: Gallo Images

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HE came, he saw, he conquered. This is the amazing story of South Africa’s all-conquering middle-distance track star, Wayde van Niekerk, who stole the limelight at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by winning the men’s 400 m in a record time of 43.03 seconds. The Free State golden boy’s superb performance saw him break American sprinter Michael Johnson’s towering record of 43.18 seconds, which has stood since 1999 and has rarely been seriously challenged. Wayde became the first athlete in Team South Africa to win gold on a good Sunday night. Setting a new world record on his maiden Olympic voyage may have appeared somewhat impossible given that Wayde was running in the eighth lane (a blind spot). However, the energetic star from Bloemfontein put his heart, mind, body and soul into the race and reigned supreme, charging to victory.

Wayde’s milestone achievement at the Rio Olympics is a reward for his efforts in preparing for the global event. He had sharpened himself by participating in short sprint events of 100 m and 200 m in South African and international track competitions. Before going to Rio, he had pointed out that his chief objective had been to optimise his speed and performance. This recipe paid off handsomely on Sunday, clinching gold.

Wayde has set himself the quest of fulfilling his legacy, termed “Defying Memories”, which was launched in June in Bloemfontein ahead of the Rio Olympics. The legacy concept has been established to deliberately keep alive those milestone moments of his bright athletic career.

Wayde’s blistering pace at the Rio Olympics also saw him beat his own time of 43.48 seconds, which he had achieved when he conquered the men’s 400 m at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championship in Beijing, China, in 2015.

His winning formula in Rio sees him continuing what he started at the Beijing World Championship. In June this year, Wayde conquered the men’s 400 m Diamond League in Rome, clocking in at 44.19 seconds.

Wayde made athletics history in March when he became the first to break 10 seconds in the 100 m, 20 seconds in the 200 m and 44 seconds in the 400 m. On home soil in Bloemfontein, he had clocked in at 19.94 and 43.48 seconds in the 200 m and 400 m and timed 9.98 seconds in the 100 m.

Wayde attributes his milestone to coach Ans Botha, who has been coaching track and field since the 1960s.

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