JOHANNESBURG – Obliteration! That’s how Wayde van Niekerk’s world record performance in the 400 metre final at the 2016 Rio Olympicshas been described.
Van Niekerk has won Team South Africa’s first gold medal at the Games.
Lining up in lane eight – the worst lane on the blue track of the Olympic Stadium – the sprinter ran a perfect race on Sunday night to cross the line in 43:03 seconds.
Van Niekerk beat his rivals Kirani James of Grenada and American LeShawn Merritt into second and third, respectively.
The pair was expected to push the Western Cape-born athlete hard, but the real race was only ever between van Niekerk and the clock.
The 24-year-old did what no man has been able to do for almost 17 years, and that was to beat Michael Johnson’s long-standing world record time of 43:18 seconds.
“He has obliterated Michael Johnson’s world record,” was how one commentator reacted.
It was also the first 400 metre final in which all three medallists ran below 44 seconds.
Van Niekerk’s victory was witnessed by his girlfriend, mother, father and other people close to him who were in the stands.
His win pushes Team SA’s medals tally to seven – one gold, five silvers and one bronze.
It’s not often that anyone overshadows sprinting great Usain Bolt, who won his third straight 100 metre Olympic gold medal less than 30 minutes after van Niekerk.
Wayde van Niekerk – Olympic champion, world champion, world record holder.