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Golden boy Van Niekerk lights up London

van niekerk

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s Olympic champion, Wayde van Niekerk, added World Championships 400-metre gold to his trophy collection with a consummate victory in London on Tuesday night.

Starting in lane six, Van Niekerk was second-quickest to react to the gun, only American Fred Kerley quicker, but the Bloemfontein bullet always looked in control, despite a threat from Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas in the final bend.

Van Niekerk countered that threat with the greatest of ease though, and even looked able to relax over the last 50m as he won in 43.98sec.

His winning time was almost a second outside his Olympic and world record time of 43.03 that he ran a year ago this month.

But conditions were on the cold side and not suitable for world record times… and there’s the small matter of a possible 200m victory coming up in the next few days, with the semi-finals being run as soon as Wednesday evening.

Gardiner took second in 44.41, with Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun a surprise third with a super finishing sprint down the inside in a personal best time of 44.48sec.

Van Niekerk’s 43.98 victory means that Michael Johnson’s World Championships record still stands, set in Seville, Spain, 18 years ago.

Two years ago in Beijing, Van Niekerk won his first world championships title with a time of 43.48 seconds.

At his first World Championships four years ago in Moscow he ran a 46.37sec to end 26th in the heats… a time that seems light years away from the man who looks set to take over the mantle of athletics golden light, Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt.

‘I hope the fans enjoyed that,’ Van Niekerk said. ‘I’m used to the lactic (acid in my legs) but I need to recover from that effort and I’ll be fine.

‘I’ve got a good team who will help me recover well for the 200m and I’m looking forward to that.’

champinships

Earlier there were mixed fortunes for the remainder of the SA trio in action on day five of the global spectacle.

Rio Olympian Justine Palframan went off in heat two of the 200m and just missed out on going through as one of three automatic qualifers.

She ran 23.35sec as American’s Kimberlyn Duncan won in 22.74.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Palframan has a season’s best and personal best of 22.84 and had an anxious wait for the completion of the seven heats, before sneaking through as one of those next three fastest times.

championships

But in the 400m hurdles, Palframan’s fellow Rio Olympian Wenda Nel wasn’t as fortunate.

Running the first of three 400m hurdles semi-finals, she ended third in 55.70sec as Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova won in 54.49. Only the first two in each semi and the next two quickest see finals action.

That wasn’t quick enough on the night, and Nel, who has a season’s best 54.58 could only look on in frustration as she ended 10th of 22 finishers. Hejnova was quickest into the finals.

Van Niekerk’s gold, South Africa’s second of the Championships after Luvo Manyonga in the long jump, brings their medal tally to four.

Caster Semenya (bronze, 1500m) and Ruswahl Samaai (bronze, long jump) are the other medallists.

That puts the rainbow nation third on the medals table behind the United States (11) and Kenya (7).

Picture of Van Niekerk celebrating victory for the rainbow nation courtesy of Matthias Hangst/Getty Images. Pictures of Palframan and Nel courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA


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