South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old 400m world record to sensationally win Olympic gold at Rio 2016.
Van Nierkerk is coached by a 74-year-old great-grandmother, Ans Botha: “She’s an amazing woman. She has played a huge role in who I am today and kept me very disciplined and very focused on the role and who I need to be. I’m very grateful my coach has pushed me to the limit. Anything is possible. I’m just grateful I can trust in her work.” Van Niekerk is a 24-year-old from Cape Town, and he carried South Africa’s flag at the opening ceremony.
Wayde van Niekerk (born 15 July 1992) is a South African track and field sprinter who competes in the 200 metres and 400 metres. He is the current world record holder, world champion and Olympic champion in the 400 metres. He is also the first athlete ever to run 100 metres in under 10 seconds, 200 metres in under 20 seconds, and 400 metres in under 44 seconds.
Van Niekerk was the silver medallist in the 400m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and took bronze in the 4×400 metres relay at the 2013 Summer Universiade. He also represented South Africa at the 2013 and the 2015 Athletics World Championships. At the 2015 World Championships, he won the gold medal in the 400 metres.
Van Niekerk is also a huge Liverpool fan and prepared for Sunday’s final by watching the Reds’ 4-3 win at Arsenal in the Premier League. “I was losing my mind because it was quite a tight match,” he said.
“I was so excited that we got the win over Arsenal. And my brother’s an Arsenal fan. Now I’ve got the world record and Liverpool beat Arsenal. I’ve got a lot to brag about.”
“Usain has been such a huge rock, inspiring me as an athlete. He told me back in Jamaica that ‘you will break the world record’. And he came to me after and said ‘I told you you could do it’ said Van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk is not the only member of his family to win a medal in Rio. His cousin, Cheslin Kolbe, won bronze with the South African sevens rugby team last week.