Wayde van Niekerk, golden boy of South Africa and the world! Van Niekerk obliterated Michael Johnson’s 400m world record in a sensational run to win South Africa’s first gold medal at the Rio Olympics on Monday morning.
Van Niekerk clocked 43.03, smashing American Johnson’s 1999 mark of 43.18 in the Olympic Stadium in an astonishing exhibition of running.
Wayde van Niekerk wins the gold medal in the men’s 400m final. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters. Credit: REUTERS
It was well clear of his previous best of 43.48.
The 24-year-old went out in customary quick fashion, but where he had in previous races slowed down towards the end, there was no stopping Van Niekerk this time as he streaked away from the rest of the field in the home straight to become the hero of South African sport.
Van Niekerk’s 43.03 was more than seven-tenths of a second quicker than the man in second, defending Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada, who had to settle for silver in 43.76.
American star LaShawn Merritt also couldn’t keep up with Van Niekerk, and finished third in 43.85.
But Van Niekerk took it all in afterwards, hardly celebrating initially as the shock of winning gold and breaking the world record in one race hit home. He looked over to the stadium clock after going over the line and once he saw the time, he held his face in his hands in disbelief.
He eventually found his family – who had flown in from Cape Town and around South Africa – in the stands and embraced them, and later stood at the stadium clock to pose for photos with the time in the background, wrapped in a South African flag.
Van Niekerk has now completed the double after winning the 400m title at last year’s world championships in Beijing, with Monday morning’s (SA time) proved that the world title was no fluke.
Van Niekerk always salutes the camera before races, but now we salute you, our champ and world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk!
[Source: Independent Online]