Report12 Mar 2016

Van Niekerk makes sprinting history in Bloemfontein


South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk (© Getty Images)

World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk has become the first man in history to run faster than 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m and 44 seconds for 400m after smashing his PB in the shorter sprint at the Free State Championships in Bloemfontein on Saturday (12).

The 23-year-old hasn’t competed in a 100m race since his junior days, so his previous PB of 10.45 – also set in Bloemfontein back in 2011 – was due for serious revision. But he surprised almost everyone, himself included, with his performance on Saturday.

After clocking a PB of 10.12 into a -1.9m/s headwind in the heats, the breeze changed direction for the final. Aided by a 1.5m/s following wind – and with a little bit of assistance from Bloemfontein’s altitude – Van Niekerk won the final in 9.98.

“It’s crazy,” he tweeted afterwards. “I’m truly grateful for this moment and appreciative of everyone’s support.”

He is the second South African sprinter this week to break the 10-second barrier for 100m. Compatriot Akani Simbine set a national record of 9.96 in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Van Niekerk set lifetime bests at all other sprint distances last year. He set a South African 200m record of 19.94 in Luzern, broke the African 300m record with 31.63 in Birmingham and then went to fourth on the world all-time list over 400m with his memorable 43.48 victory at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

But despite his all-round sprinting ability, Van Niekerk confirmed in an interview with Reuters earlier this week that his sole focus for this year's Olympics will be on one lap of the track.

"For the Olympics I am purely focused on the 400," he said. "I believe that I stand quite a good chance there now, so I don’t think I’m going to gamble too much at Rio."

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF