Jamaica’s Usain Bolt had the world watching him last night during the men’s 100m final at the Olympics in Rio. But it was the race preceding the men’s 100m final that was arguably the more incredible of the two sprint events.
South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk broke the men’s 400m world record in a remarkable 43.03 seconds to win the Olympic gold. The previous record, held by the great Michael Johnson, was considered unbeatable by many running fanatics.
Full race (van Niekerk is in the outside lane)
— CANOC Broadcasting (@CANOCBroadcast) August 15, 2016
The South African broke Johnson’s mark from 1999 out of lane eight, impressive because he cannot see the other athletes during the one-lap race. Athletes stay in their lanes for the entire race in the men’s 400m. He broke Johnson’s record of 43.18.
You know it’s an impressive run when Bolt reacts to the news like this:
— Stephen Nelson (@Stephen__Nelson) August 15, 2016
Van Niekerk, 24, is coached by a 74-year-old great-grandmother, Anna Botha. She began coaching the young South African in 2012 when van Niekerk attended the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. Under her tutelage, the 24-year-old has become one of the world’s best sprinters.
— @WaydesWorld (@WaydesWorldSA) August 15, 2016
Botha, who is often referred to as “Auntie Ans,” has four children and has been coaching for more than five decades. Van Niekerk is the first athlete she has coached who has gone on to win an Olympic medal.
Amazing amazing amazing!!
— Female Coaching Nwk (@FemaleCN) August 15, 2016
He’s the only man in history to have run sub-10 in the 100m, sub-20 in the 200m and sub-44 in the 400m, all considered world-class times. He could qualify for the final, if not medal, in all three of the sprint events though he won’t contest any other event following his 400m run.
The South African reacts to his world record run
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) August 15, 2016
Van Niekerk defeated the previous two Olympic champions in the event: Grenada’s Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt of the United States. Those two ran side-by-side in the middle lanes of the track but with 100m to go, van Niekerk not only kept his form, it appeared he accelerated. That’s rare for a 400m as athletes usually try to hold on rather than push it in the final stretch.
He entered the race in tough against the previous two Olympic champions. To his credit, he also had an impressive resume with a gold medal at the 2015 world championships and a silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.