Athletics

Van Niekerk wins gold for Team SA

Wayde van Niekerk (Gallo Images)
Wayde van Niekerk (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - South African sprinting sensation Wayde van Niekerk has claimed the gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing on Wednesday to become the first African 400m runner in almost a century to win a major global title.

Van Niekerk posted the sixth fastest time in history clocking 43.48 to claim the title.

American LaShawn Merritt finished in second with 43.65, while defending champion Grenadian Kirani James posted a time of  43.78 for the bronze medal.

South Africa’s Bevil Rudd was the last African to win a major title in the one-lap sprint when he won gold at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp.

Van Niekerk has been one of the shining stars in international track and field this season becoming only the fourth athlete to run faster than 20 seconds in the 200m and 44 seconds in the 400m.

The 23-year-old broke both the South African 200m and 400m records while he became the first African to break through the 44-second barrier in the one-lap sprint.

He briefly held the African record in the 400m with his time of 43.96 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in July before Makwala improved on it the following day with 43.72.

Meanwhile, Olympic finalist Anaso Jobodwana advanced to the men’s 200m final in style posting a personal best of 20.01 seconds to finish second behind world record holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica.

Jobodwana remained on Bolt’s shoulder for most of the race before easing off over the final metres with the Jamaican finishing first in 19.95 seconds with the two sprinters glancing at each other as they crossed the line.

South African women’s 400m ace Wenda Nel finished seventh in her first ever World Championships final with a time of 54.94.

The Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova won the title posting 53.50 with American duo Shamier Little (53.94) and Cassandra Tate (54.02) crossing the in second and third respectively.

It was only Nel’s second world championships after she finished third in her heat in Daegu 2011 before being knocked out in the semi-final with an eighth-place finish.

Nel has been a model of consistency producing low 55-second races this season with a person best of 54.37 she clocked at the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing in May.

Earlier, Justine Palframan made amends in the women’s 200m after she was eliminated in the heats of her preferred 400m where she finished last in 52.45 seconds.

Palframan advanced to the 200m semi-final earning automatic qualification with a third-place finish in her heat with a time of 23.09 which was a fraction slower than her personal best of 22.96.

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