clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

If you only saw Usain Bolt you missed Sunday's best Olympics race

Wayde Van Niekerk set the world record at the 400 meter in an astonishing performance.

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.

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.

Wade van Niekerk Olympic Gold WR

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.

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.

He stopped mid-interview to do it!

There’s this photo of it, too.

Olympics: Track and Field John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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.

* * *

Wayde Van Niekerk's coach is a great grandmother