Sunday was supposed to be about Usain Bolt. It still was, of course, with his 9.8-second time on the 100 medal and third straight gold medal as the fastest man alive. But somehow, despite all that, even with Bolt’s perchance to stunt on the other runners during the race itself, one story nearly stole the show.
Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa shattered the world record in the 400-meter race, finishing with a time of 43.03 that easily topped Michael Johnson’s world record of 43.18 seconds, as well as his Olympics record. Here’s how he did it.
Full splits for @WaydeDreamer as provided by Pierre-Jean Vazel @pjvazel— Ato Boldon (@AtoBoldon) August 15, 2016
That’s right ... van Niekerk ran 100 meters to 200 as fast as Bolt ran his first and only 100-meters in his gold medal race on Sunday. Combine that with his two sub-11 second sections and he was the easy winning, outpacing the entire field.
Even more impressive is that Van Niekerk did it from lane 8, the last lane and the one that starts furthest up on the track. The fastest runners usually start in the first four lanes, and it gives them a chance to race against the field. Van Niekerk didn’t have that chance, since he started ahead of everyone and never trailed when the rest of the runners came around the bend. He couldn’t see them, so he just had to run his damndest and hope it was enough. Oh, and it was.
Praise poured in from across the racing community, including from the previous world record holder.
Congratulations @WaydeDreamer to you and your coach! Well done and deserved. Olympic Gold and World record. I know the feeling! #Rio2016— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) August 15, 2016
Thanks for all the kind words. I'll always have the memory of the accomplishment of breaking it. Like the 200 I think it's in good hands— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) August 15, 2016
After the race, Bolt talked about how he believed Van Niekerk could do this: "I told him in Jamaica he'll break the world record," Bolt told him in Jamaica before the Olympics, per Reuters. And after Van Niekerk broke it and after Bolt’s own race, here was Bolt’s reaction.
Here is why I respect #UsainBolt "he made his way up the stairs to congratulate #WaydevanNiekerk" pic.twitter.com/QnaTUTB4Ep— Jerome Damon (@jerome_k_damon) August 15, 2016
He stopped mid-interview to do it!
Brilliant. Bolt stops interview to go and congratulate Van Niekerk. pic.twitter.com/W8VgiOlfDn— Mathew Quinn (@MatTMQ) August 15, 2016
There’s this photo of it, too.
Van Niekerk did something incredible, even if Bolt’s race outshined his ever so slightly. He’s the new world recorder holder and the fastest man at the 400-meter race in history. What an accomplishment.
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