South Africa’s Olympic champion, Wayde van Niekerk, added World Championships 400m gold to his trophy collection with a consummate victory in London on Tuesday night, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Starting in lane six, Van Niekerk was second-quickest to react to the gun, only American Fred Kerley quicker, but the Bloemfontein bullet always looked in control, despite a threat from Steven Gardiner (Bahamas) in the final bend.
Van Niekerk countered that threat with the greatest of ease, though, and even looked able to relax over the last 50m as he won in 43.98sec.
His winning time was almost a second outside his Olympic and world record time of 43.03 that he ran a year ago this month.
But conditions were on the cold side and not suitable for world record times, and there’s the small matter of a possible 200m victory coming up in the next few days, with the semi-finals being run as soon as Wednesday evening.
Gardiner took second in 44.41, with Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun a surprise third with a super finishing sprint down the inside in a personal best time of 44.48sec.
Van Niekerk’s 43.98 victory means that Michael Johnson’s World Championships record still stands, set in Seville, Spain, 18 years ago.
Two years ago in Beijing, Van Niekerk won his first World Championships title with a time of 43.48 seconds.
At his first World Championships four years ago in Moscow he ran a 46.37sec to end 26th in the heats – a time that seems light years away from the man who looks set to take over the mantle of athletics golden light, Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt.
Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
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