For nearly 20 years, the world record for the 400m sprint race remained unbroken. Set by US star Michael Johnson, the record time of 43.18 seemed an impossible task for athletes. Many stepped into the blocks thinking today would be the day, but change wouldn’t come until South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk made his mark on the Rio Olympics.
Running from the number eight lane, Wayde was an unexpected hero of the night. Often deemed the most difficult lane to run, the 24-year-old embarrassed his competitors with a blistering pace.
Niekerk’s Unheard Of Lead In The 400m Race Took Commentators By Surprise
Racing a full seven-tenths of a second ahead of second-place finisher Kirani James, Niekerk’s athletics might be deemed suspicious by the casual observer. However, the secret of his win didn’t come from a needle or pill. It came from the mind of a 74-year-old woman that Niekerk knows all too well.
“Van Niekerk is so young, what else can he do? Can he go under 43 seconds? It is something I thought I could do, but never did. Usain Bolt will be retiring soon, this could be the next star of the sport.”
–Former WR Holder Michael Johnson
They may not be blood related, but Ans Botha is family as far as Niekerk is concerned. For the past four years the South Africa talent has been working with Botha, making the switch from 200m to 400m after an injury plagued past.
The switch worked, and Niekerk got good. Really good. His time in the World Championships last year was the fourth-fastest in history. This year in Rio, Niekerk went all the way to the number one spot.