Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk fired a crackerjack shot across the bows of any would-be pretenders to his World Championship 400m crown in Switzerland on Thursday night, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Lining up for his first international one-lap event of the year, Van Niekerk cruised to a meeting record of 43.62sec at the Lausanne leg of the Diamond League.
That eclipsed former world record holder Michael Johnson’s meet record of 43.66 set 21 years ago on 2 July, 1996
And the scary news for any of those would-be pretenders to Van Niekerk’s World Championships crown that he donned in Beijing in China two years ago is that the Bloemfontein blitz was once again slowing down over the final stages.
Just over a month away are the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London and right now (in fact all year after his great form over 100, 200 and 300m) Van Niekerk looks to be in the pound seats.
Van Niekerk’s performance produced a proud podium of Africans as Botswana’s Baboloki Thebe and Isaac Makwala ran 44.02 and 44.08 respectively.
That 43.63 was not only a world-leading time and meeting record but also a Diamond League record. In his wake there were two personal bests and three season’s best, proof of the South Africa’s phenomenal pulling power.
He was one of six South Africans in action… and head and shoulders above the rest.
Next best on the night was Akani Simbine in the 100m sprint. He took bronze to Justin Gatlin in 9.99 – 0.03sec off the pace.
Sandwiched between was African champion Ben-Youssef Meite of the Ivory Coast in a season’s best 9.98.
Simbine’s compatriot and fellow Olympian Henricho Bruintjies, was sixth in 10.15 as the Cape athlete continues to search for the form that took him below the 10sec barrier, when he blasted to his personal best of 9.73 almost two years to the day, two years back.
Next best of the South Africans was Cornel Fredericks. The reigning Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles champion looked a million dollars as the field hit the straight but somewhere around the final hurdle it all fizzled out and he faded to fifth in 49.32.
Compatriot LJ van Zyl would also not be a happy man as he finally got a good lane draw, one from the inside draw, but never looked to get out of first gear and ended seventh in 50.04.
The only women in action for South Africa was Olympic javelin silver medallist Sunette Viljoen and she too would not be happy with her efforts on a sweltering Swiss evening.
She ended sixth with a best throw of 61.38 in her fifth and penultimate throw as Croatia’s Sara Kolak won with an impressive 68.43, a world-leading distance as well as a meeting and national record.
Picture of Van Niekerk celebrating yet another milestone on Thursday night courtesy of Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
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