Bloemfontein – South African Olympic gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk’s 400m world record was hardly a surprise, his coach Ans Botha said on Wednesday.
“I am so proud of him because we didn’t just work to participate in Rio, we worked for the record, and in a way I wasn't surprised when he achieved that goal,” she said.
“More than 3 years of work came together into 43.03 seconds and everything fell into place in Rio.”
Botha, 74, arrived at the Bram Fischer International Airport in Bloemfontein on Wednesday afternoon. Several of her pupils and friends welcomed her back.
She became an overnight sensation after Van Niekerk’s success at the Rio Olympics.
He won South Africa’s first gold medal at the games, finishing the men's 400m final in 43.03. He broke the previous world record of 43.18 seconds, which Michael Johnson set in 1999.
“The moment when I started to enjoy the race it was all over,” she said.
Botha had been coaching the Olympian since October 2012.
“It has been hectic. Up until now, Wayde and I still haven’t had time together to process and discuss the race and our goals for the next season,” she said.
“We started preparing for Rio, especially since he won world championship in Beijing last year and we also knew that his opponents would work hard. Throughout the whole season, we trained and prepared for the time that he broke.
“I cannot describe in words how I feel. I was so proud of Wayde, that despite so many difficulties, he ran his race.”
Van Niekerk was expected to receive a hero’s welcome in Bloemfontein on Friday, the University of Free State said.