Brilliant Van Niekerk smashes 400m world record

Mon Aug 15, 2016 12:23am EDT
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By Nick Mulvenney

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk ran the fastest single lap in history to win the Olympic 400 meters gold medal in 43.03 seconds and break Michael Johnson's 17-year-old world record on Sunday.

Running an extraordinary race in lane eight, the 24-year-old world champion got off to a flier and was streaking clear on the back straight before upping his pace even further to better American Johnson's 1999 mark of 43.18 seconds.

"I believed I could get the world record," Van Niekerk told reporters. "I've dreamed of this medal since forever. I am blessed."

The South African flew across the line a good five meters ahead of 2012 champion Kirani James and held his hands to his head in disbelief before being embraced by the Grenadian, who took silver in 43.76.

"I'm happy to be part of a race that made history," James said. "We have put this sport on a pedestal."

LaShawn Merritt of the United States, the 2008 Olympic champion, claimed bronze in 43.85, the first time the top three had run under 44 seconds in the one-lap Olympic final.

"It was a crazy race, a great moment in history," said Merritt, who was unable to defend his title in London after suffering a hamstring injury in the heats.

"The world record was broken, the best man won."   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's 400m Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 14/08/2016. Gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk (RSA) of South Africa points to the board showing his new world new record. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson