Michael Johnson's 400m record broken as South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk claims gold
By AFP Sport
Last Updated: 16/08/16 4:29pm
Wayde Van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson's 17-year-old 400m record as he powered to Olympic gold in the men’s 400m on Sunday.
The South African, running in the unfavoured lane eight, stormed round the final bend to secure victory in 43.03sec, 0.15sec quicker than Johnson's previous world best set in Seville in 1999.
Defending champion Kirani James of Grenada had to settle for silver in 43.76sec, with American Lashawn Merritt taking bronze in 43.85secs.
Van Niekerk came into the Games as world champion but he struggled for form during the heats, meaning the pre-race focus was on James and Merritt.
James set off fast in lane five, Merritt on his coat-tails on the inside with Van Niekerk running solo out wide.
The trio had produced one of the races of the year in the 400m final at the 2015 world championships in Beijing, all going under 44 seconds as the South African emerged victorious.
And it was the same again in Rio, Van Niekerk exploding off the last bend and holding his form through the line in an extraordinary run as all eight runners finished under 44.61sec.
"I have never seen anything like that," Johnson told BBC, for whom he works as an analyst.
"It is amazing. That was a massacre by Van Niekerk. This young man has done something truly special. He could go under 43 seconds - I tried and failed.
"Being out in lane eight helped him, he was away from James and Merritt. He was running a time-trial.
"That was some style he broke it in."