Van Niekerk in 2015
15 July 1992 |
Cape Town, South Africa
|Height||1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||72 kg (159 lb)|
|Sport||Track and field|
|Achievements and titles|
Wayde van Niekerk (South African English pronunciation: , Afrikaans: [fan ni'k?rk]; 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, and also holds the world best time in the 300 metres.
Van Niekerk was the silver medallist in the 400 m 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. He defended this title two year later, in London, where he also won the silver medal in the 200 metres race.
In the 2016 Olympic Games Men's 400 m, he won the gold medal with a World Record time of 43.03 seconds (reaction time 0.181 s) aged 24 years and 30 days, beating the time of 43.18 seconds set by Michael Johnson during the 1999 World Championships in Athletics in Seville, Spain.
In 2016 he became the first, and to date, only, sprinter in history to have run the 100 m in under 10 seconds, the 200 m in under 20 seconds and the 400 m in under 44 seconds. In 2017, after a 30.81 seconds victory in the seldom-run 300 m distance, breaking Michael Johnson's world best time of 30.85 that was set since 2000, he became the only sprinter in history to have run sub-10, sub-20, sub-31 and sub-44 performances at 100 m, 200 m, 300 m and 400 m respectively.
Born in Cape Town, Wayde van Niekerk attended Bellville Primary and Grey College before going on to study marketing at University of the Free State. He made his international debut at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where he placed fourth in the 200 m with a personal best time of 21.02 seconds. He also ran in the 4×100 metres relay heats with the national team, alongside Gideon Trotter. His senior breakthrough came at the age of eighteen at the 2011 South African Athletics Championships when he won the 200 m title in a new personal best of 20.57 seconds. He competed at that event at the 2011 African Junior Athletics Championships, but did not make the final. He ran sparingly in 2012, but began to show a talent for the 400 metres, setting a best of 46.43 seconds.
The 2013 season marked van Niekerk's emergence as a 400 m runner. He won the second national title of his career over that distance at the 2013 South African Championships, winning with a sub-46-second time. He won the IAAF Meeting de Dakar before travelling to Europe and placing second to Olympic champion Kirani James at the Golden Spike Ostrava, improving his best time to 45.09 seconds in the process. He entered the 400 metres at the 2013 Summer Universiade and narrowly missed out on the final as the fastest non-qualifier. He managed to reach the podium and receive his first international medal in the 4×400 metres relay as the South African men took the bronze medals. His performances earned him a place in the 400 m at the 2013 World Championships, where he did not progress past the heats.
A national title win in April 2014 saw van Niekerk top the world rankings with a best of 44.92 seconds - his first sub-45-second run. After a win at the FBK Games in the Netherlands he ran at the New York Diamond League race and placed second to LaShawn Merritt, but his time of 44.38 seconds was a new South African record, bettering Arnaud Malherbe and Hendrick Mokganyetsi's shared record from March 1999 and September 2000 respectively. A 200 m best of 20.19 seconds followed in a fourth-place finish at the Athletissima meet. He entered both sprint events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and won his first individual senior medal over 400 m, placing behind Kirani James with a time of 44.68 seconds (his second fastest run at that point). He reached the semi-final of the 200 m, but did not repeat his success of the longer sprint.
In 2015, he lowered his South African record to below 44 seconds with a 43.96 at the Meeting Areva and ranking himself in the top dozen of all time. At the 2015 IAAF World Championships, van Niekerk won gold in the 400 metres with a time of 43.48 seconds, making him the fourth fastest runner of all time, ahead of LaShawn Merritt who was running his personal best as the sixth fastest.
On March 12, 2016 he became the 107th athlete to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 metres. That made him the first individual to break 10 seconds for 100 metres, 20 seconds for 200 metres, and 44 seconds for 400 metres. Van Niekerk qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics and was the flag bearer for South Africa.
Van Niekerk won the gold medal in the 400 metres at the 2016 Summer Olympics with a world record time of 43.03 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson's from 1999. Van Niekerk became the only man to have won the Olympic or world 400 metres from lane eight: usually, runners in this lane are at a disadvantage due to the staggered start.
On 8 August 2017 Van Niekerk successfully defended his 400 meters world title at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in London with a time of 43.98 seconds. Two days later Van Niekerk finished second in the 200 m in a time of 20.11 seconds at the World Championships. He became the first South African athlete to land two individual sprint medals at a single meet.
Van Niekerk ran the opening 200 metres in 20.5 seconds and the closing 200 metres in 22.5 seconds, giving a differential of 2.0 seconds. The 100 metre-long-section beginning after the first 100 metres was completed in 9.8 seconds.
Van Niekerk is the cousin of South African rugby union and rugby sevens player Cheslin Kolbe. He first started using his speed while playing rugby in junior school in Cape Town. He and his cousin, Kolbe, were on the same team. More than 12 years later they were both in the South African Olympic Team in Rio, with Kolbe playing in the Sevens.
He supports Liverpool Football Club. He is a Christian, tweeting "Jesus Did It" and "GOD IS POWER" after setting the world record for the 400 m. Van Niekerk's Olympic wins set off a racial debate after a tweet storm when Coloured South Africans celebrated his win by creating a hashtag #ColouredExcellence. In November, he won the Best Male Athlete of the Rio 2016 Olympics award in Doha.
|Men's 400 metres World Record Holder
14 August 2016 - present
|Men's 400m African Record Holder
26 August 2015 - present
|Men's Track & Field News Athlete of the Year
|Flagbearer for South Africa
Rio de Janeiro 2016