His speedy performance means that he has become only the fourth South African to count among the top ten on the IAAF all-time lists for specific events.
He is also the first African to dip below 44 seconds in the 400 metres, which means that his winning time is also an African record. It is the second time this season that he was able to improve on the South African record. At the Diamond League Meeting in New York he ran 44.24 seconds.
“My goal this year is to continue pushing myself to improve. The key to success is to do exactly what my coach asks me to do. Because Kirani (James) is the guy who inspires me, my victory was even more special. I hope this was the beginning of great things ahead for me,” Van Niekerk said afterwards.
Van Niekerk’s performance over approximately the last 100 metres, when he took the lead in the home straight, was certainly impressive. James battled in lane four to make up ground, but had to settle for second place in 44.17 seconds. US champion, David Verburg, was well back in third in 44.81s.
It was the first time this season that the Olympic champion was beaten. James was full of praise for the South African’s fleet footedness after the race.
He said: “It was a very competitive race today and Wayde ran very well. But I am satisfied with my season so far. I have been consistent enough. This was my last race before Beijing and its back to training for the World Championships now.”
The other South African athletes who established themselves in the top ten on the IAAF all times lists are: Ockert Brits (6th in the pole vault – 6.03m in 1995); Hestrie Cloete (5th in the high jump – 2:06m in 2003); Sunette Viljoen (6th in the javelin – 69.35m in 2012). Van Niekerk is ranked 10th currently on the all-time 400-list.
South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen finished third in the javelin last night with a best distance of 63.15 metres. Barbora Spotakova (Czech Republic) won with a throw of 64.42 metres. Australia’s Kimberley Mickle was second with a throw of 63.80 metres.
Wenda Nel finished 5th in the 400-hurdles in a time of 54.61 seconds. It was her second fastest time of the season. But the fact that Nel is consistently running times faster than 55 seconds is even more important. Her best time of 54.37s is still one of the ten fastest for the season.
“I am satisfied with my performance. Obviously I would have liked to get a top-three finish but my second goal for this race was to break 55 seconds, which I did. So I cannot complain. If I was a bit faster in the first half of the race I might have challenged for fourth, or maybe even third, because I finished quite strongly,” the Tuks/HPC athlete said.
The Czech Republic’s world champion, Zuzana Hejnova, won in 53.76s which is the second fastest time of the season. Sara Petersen of Denmark was second in 53.99s.