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Wayde has the world at his feet after Paris performance
- Updated: July 4, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
Watch out World Athletics Championships in China next month… here comes Wayde van Niekerk!
The Bloemfontein blitz blazed to a brilliant Diamond League victory in the 400-metre event in Paris last night, beating Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Kirani James in emphatic fashion.
Starting in lane five, the in-form Van Niekerk built on his recent African 300m record and improved own national 400m mark as he crossed in 43.96 seconds for an African record. It was a whopping 0.28sec inside his previous best, set in New York less than a month ago.
Van Niekerk started well and maintained his form perfectly down the back straight. Coming out of the final bend James looked good to go on and win but Van Niekerk had other ideas and ran down the powerful Guyana athlete with ease to win ‘going away’ in horse-racing parlance, South Africa’s foremost equestrian race, the Durban July having been run earlier on the same day.
Van Niekerk, who beat James by 0.21sec, was the best of the South African athletes in Paris action.
‘All thanks to everyone back home,’ he told Road to Rio 2016. ‘I do this for us.’
The good news is that Van Niekerk thinks he can get better. ‘It wasn’t easy but I think I planned it well. Definitely, there’s still room for improvement but I really felt good in the last 200m.
‘The first 200m was a bit relaxed but then again I saved a lot for the last 200m. I just feel there should be more. I trust and believe that God has more …’
Van Niekerk’s new mark is now just 0.01sec off the world’s best for the year, set by James in America in May. Next up is the 200m distance, still very close to Van Niekerk’s heart at the next Diamond League stop, Lausanne, Switzerland next week.
Wenda Nel got the meeting off to a start in the 400m hurdles. Showing some fine form around the globe this year, she was in action in one of her biggest meetings to date.
She ended fifth in 54.61 behind Czech winner Zuzana Heznova’s 53.76 season’s best. The top quality field also saw athletes ahead of Nel having to produce national records.
‘It was really a nice race and I’m very satisfied,’ she told Road to Rio 2016. ‘It was a fast race! I’m quite excited because I think there’s still more to come for me.
‘Now I’m running in Lausanne, Switzerland on Thursday and then again only in London on 24 July.’
At the same meeting, the field events saw Commonwealth champion Sunette Viljoen ending third behind Czech Republic’s Barbora Sportakova. Viljoen’s best effort of the evening was a 63.15.