South African Wayde Van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson’s long-standing 400m record when he stormed to Olympic gold on Sunday.
In one of the most phenomenal performances ever seen on an athletics track, Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa broke Michael Johnson’s 400m world record which had stood since August 1999.
The 24-year-old, who is coached by his 74-year-old great grandmother Ans Botha, came from lane eight to cross the line in 43.03sec, obliterating Johnson’s best of 43.18.
The old world record, set in August 1999, had been considered one of the toughest in track and field. But Van Niekerk began accelerating clear round the second bend and lowered his previous best by almost half a second to smash through it.
‘I’ve never seen anything like that from 200m to 400m,’ said Johnson, ‘That was a massacre. He just put those guys away. LaShawn Merritt was shaking his head, thinking “I can’t do anything with that”.’
‘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 new star of our sport.’
Van Niekerk, who was the flag bearer for South Africa at the Games’ opening ceremony, had flown ten members of his family to Rio to watch him compete, including his girlfriend Chesney Campbell, 24, his grandparents and parents, Odessa and Wayne.
He ran to embrace them as Grenada’s defending Kirani James, who finished second in 43.76, applauded from a distance. America’s LaShawn Merritt, the gold medal winner in Beijing in 2008, came home third in 43.85. Britain’s Matt Hudson-Smith was last in 44.61.