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Ex champ Malherbe on Wayde’s win… and the way forward
- Updated: August 15, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
Former South African 400-metre champion and national record holder Arnaud Malherbe says that once again his expectations of new world record holder and now Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk continue be blown out of the water!
It seems a long time ago now that Malherbe motored to his personal best of 44.59sec in Roodepoort back in 1999.
And indeed in terms of athletics progression, the 43.03 that Van Niekerk ran in Rio on Sunday is light years apart.
Malherbe, who is serving in an expert early-morning commentary capacity on television back home in South Africa, took time out to sum up the magnitude of Van Niekerk’s Olympic moment.
‘Well, we wondered if No 8 would be a good or bad lane but I didn’t think it would bother him too much be because he paced so well at World Championships in Beijing and listened exactly to what his coach had said. I knew he could do it and the other benefit was that Kirani James was only two lanes inside him so at least if James started fast then Wayde wouldn’t have to wait until only 100m to run before he saw his main rivals!
‘But that being said there was always just one way to run this race and he did it perfectly… he went out hard, held his nerve down the back straight, kept it relaxed and then kicked even harder around the second bend.
‘The question was whether he’d be able to hold on after that but as I said before the race if he did manage to hold on and win the record was in danger.’
And Malherbe is perfectly happy to be once again proved wrong by Wayde’s winning ways. ’As usual he continues to surprise me. Last year I said he’d run about 43.7 and he ran 43.4. This time I said he’d run a winning time of about 43.3 and again he was 0.3sec faster.’
Going deeper into the actual race and Malherbe says the final stages of the race were always going to be crucial. ‘Coming around second bend was always going to be a question of whether he’d be able to hang on or not and whether James and Merritt would hunt him down but it was absolutely amazing what he actually did.
‘So coming around the bend the other two were thinking they’d close in on him but then he started going away and ran even faster rather than tiring, he just went further and further away.. It’s truly amazing, almost too amazing for words.
’To see Michael Johnson’s 43.18 world record reduced to this! This is not breaking a record, this is shattering it…
‘That record was one of the best out there.. he was just phenomenal and for W to do this is incredible – just out of this world.
‘The composure with which he kept his form for the last 50-60m was a joy to behold. I can’t wait to speak to him and his coach and here more from them..
‘There are just so many stats and record that he broke…’
Looing ahead into this crystal ball and Malherbe knows there’s more to come.
‘I’m almost 100% sure he’ll be under 43sec maybe next year or maybe within a year or two but he just continues to surprise me and exceed my wildest expectations.’
Judging on how Van Niekerk has surpassed the former champion’s predictions… that could happen sooner rather than later!
Picture of Van Niekerk courtesy of Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA
The greatest 400 metre runner in World history...I'm so happy for Wade..congratulations to you.you make South Africa proud whenever you compete!!.. You deserve it and this is your memory for the rest of your life no one will take it from you!!...
I cannot explain the feeling I had watching the repeat of the race multiple times today. Unimagenable.
He's always cool very down to earth..at some times you would even ask yourself if he is aware of the history he's making!!