Merritt, James respond to Wayde's WR

2016-08-15 04:05
Wayde van Niekerk (Getty Images)

Rio de Janeiro - Through the heats and semi-finals, it looked increasingly likely that the winner of the men's 400m at Rio 2016 would be one of Kirani James or LaShawn Merritt. 

The were quickest going into Sunday night's (Monday morning) final, while Wayde van Niekerk was fifth fastest and had to be content with lane 8. 

Nobody would have predicted what happened next. 

Van Niekerk, just 24-years-old, obliterated Michael Johnson's world record as he stopped the clock in 43.03 to set the Rio Olympics alight. 

James finished second in 43.76 and Merritt claimed bronze in 43.85. 

The pair were doing well to hide their shock after the race, but they couldn't have predicted how quick Van Niekerk was. 

"It's a great run ... a world record race," Merritt said.

"The only thing you can say about that is the top three guys came to run and the winner got the gold in 43.00."

Merritt said Van Niekerk running in lane 8 may even have played into his hands. 

"Less of a curve," he said.

"At one point they didn't even count world records on the outside lane because you didn't have enough of a curve.

"The lanes don't matter."

James, meanwhile, was more complimentary of Van Niekerk's performance. 

"I thought the race would be around 43-mid," said James.

"Wayde was in lane 8 so I wasn't sure how he was going to gauge ... but he just kept going and he wouldn't slow down. It's incredible." 

Lloyd Burnard is Sport24's correspondent in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2016 Olympics ...

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