South African athlete Wayde van Niekerk was on fire in the men’s 400m final at the Rio Olympic Games on Sunday night, storming to the gold in Olympic and world record time.
The 24-year-old from Cape Town beat defending Olympic champion Kirani James from Granada and American LaShawn Merritt in an astonishing time of 43.03 seconds to claim South Africa’s first gold medal at the ongoing Olympic Games in Brazil.
The current world champion in the one-lap event managed to break Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record, and even more impressively, he completed the win from the unfancied lane eight, where it is difficult to see fellow competitors.
The humble young star was congratulated by 100m gold medallist and sprinting king Usain Bolt, in a moment that saw the future star of athletics embracing the outgoing legend.
Van Niekerk had trained in Jamaica with Bolt and his team recently, with bolt’s coach commenting on the South African’s ability to break the 400m record at the time.
Speaking to the media immediately after winning his race, Van Niekerk was his usual humble self.
‘As I got to the finish line I was expecting one of them to catch me and as I crossed the finish line I looked left and I saw – but there’s no-one. I’m still a bit amazed. I still have to pinch myself at what happened,’ he said.
Team South Africa have now earned a gold, five silver and one bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games.