Wayde van Niekirk broke Michael Johnsons 17 year 400m World Record with a sensational performance on the Rio track last night. In what the former record holder Johnson called ‘a massacre’ he blew away a one the fastest assembled fields with the first track world record of the games. His domination of the one lap event posted with splits across each of the 100m he ran of: 10.7 secs, 9.8, 10.5, 12.0.
On the night that second 100m was faster than Usain Bolt’s Olympic gold winning 100m time of 9.81s. The South African’s personal best at that distance of 9.98s would’ve placed 7th in that final.
The way he moved away from the field in the final 100m was possibly the most stunning moment of the Olympic games so far and to do so from lane 8 all the more remarkable, destroying the two previous Olympic champions in the process.
The 24 year old is coached by a 74-year-old great-grandmother Ans Botha, once a sprinter and a long jumper, and her pupils call her “Tannie Ans,” meaning Auntie. Last year, the head coach at South Africa’s University of the Free State told the City Press that her “passion is too high” to stop coaching in a career spanning five decades. She got emotional when describing her responsibility in coaching van Niekerk.
“I wouldn’t say I’m afraid … but I have such a big responsibility to get this athlete to develop to his full potential. Also, I need to try to do my very best not to do something wrong that might break him,” she told the City Press.
Botha started coaching van Niekerk in 2012, connecting after he attended the University of the Free State as a marketing student. They met with his parents and laid out a plan, the focus of which was to not push van Niekerk’s body beyond its limits. Their first three months in partnership were spent rehabbing some nagging injuries.
The strategy worked — since she’s been his coach, van Niekerk’s time has dropped by a whopping four seconds.