Wayde van Niekerk earns gold for SA in 400m

2015-08-26 16:10
Wayde Van Niekerk drops to the ground after winning the men’s 400m final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China on Wednesday (August 26 2015). Picture: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Beijing – Wayde van Niekerk handed South Africa its first sprint medal in a major championship with gold in the 400m final today in a new national record and a world leading time of 43.48 seconds.

The feat was Team SA’s first gong at the ongoing IAAF World Championships.

Van Niekerk (23), capped a season in which he started as the national champion in April and went on to beat the world’s best sprinters in the one-lap race a few months later.

It was the case of lightning striking twice for the University of Free State marketing student who started late on the European circuit because he had his mid-year examinations to overcome first.

His victory today completed a double victory over American LaShawn Merritt, who settled for silver in a personal best 43.65 seconds and Kirani James of Grenada who took bronze in a season best 43.78 seconds.

Van Niekerk beat Merritt in the semifinals to win the heat on Monday.

Prior to the world championships, the Kovsies runner also stunned Olympic champion James in a Diamond League meting in France in July, the same month he went on to defeat African champion Isaac Makwala in London.

In another medal event involving a South African, Wenda Nel came seventh in 54.94 seconds in the women’s 400m hurdles final. 

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