RECORD HOLDER: Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa.
RECORD HOLDER: Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa. Ezra Shaw

Gone in 43.03 seconds

ATHLETICS: Wayde van Niekerk is coached by a great grandmother.

He's the first man ever to run under 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 seconds for the 200m and 44 seconds for the 400m.

And now he's the 400m world record holder.

When Usain Bolt finally packs it in, track and field may just have found its next global star.

Fittingly, the legendary US quarter-miler Michael Johnson was on hand at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday to watch the 24-year-old South African smash his 17-year-old world record of 43.18 seconds.

Running in the outside lane in the Olympic final, Van Niekerk bolted out of the blocks and never let up.

He crossed the line in 43.03, leaving defending Olympic champion Kirani James from Grenada and 2008 Olympic gold medallist LaShawn Merritt from the US trailing in his wake.

"He took it out so quick. I have never seen anything from 200 to 400 like that," Johnson told the BBC.

"That was a massacre from Wayde van Niekerk. He just put those guys away."

James claimed the silver in 43.76 and Merritt took the bronze with 43.85 in a race where four of the top six finishers set personal bests.

"I believed I could get the world record," said Van Niekerk.

"I've dreamed of this medal since forever. I am blessed."

Van Niekerk is trained by 74-year-old Ans Botha, who has been coaching athletes in South Africa since the 1960s.

She is 50 years older than Van Niekerk, but the partnership clearly works, as was shown on Sunday in Rio.

"Van Niekerk is so young, what else can he do? Can he go under 43 seconds?" said Johnson.

"It is something I thought I could do, but never did."

AAP


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