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Wayde van Niekerk

Wayde van Niekerk

Wayde van Niekerk (South African English: /ˈweɪd fʌn niːˈkɛərk/, Afrikaans: [fan niˈkɛrk]; born 15 July 1992) is a South African track and field sprinter who competes in the 200 and 400 metres. In the 400 metres, he is the current world and Olympic record holder, and world and Olympic champion. He also holds the world-best time in the 300 metres.

Van Niekerk was the silver medallist in the 400m 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 2015 Athletics World Championships. At the 2015 World Championships, he won the gold medal in the 400 meters. He defended his title two years later, in London, where he also won the silver medal in the 200 meters race.

In the 2016 Olympic Games men's 400m, Van Niekerk won the gold medal with a world record time of 43.03 seconds (reaction time 0.181 s[9]) at age 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, Van Niekerk became the first, and to date, only, sprinter in history to have run the 100 metres in under 10 seconds, 200 metres in under 20 seconds, and 400 metres in under 44 seconds.[10] In 2017, after a 30.81 seconds victory in the seldom-run 300 metres distance, breaking Michael Johnson's world-best time of 30.85 which was set in 2000, Van Niekerk became the only sprinter in history to have run sub-10, sub-20, sub-31 and sub-44 performances at 100m, 200m, 300m and 400m respectively.[11]

Wayde van Niekerk
Personal information
NationalitySouth African
Born(1992-07-15)15 July 1992
Kraaifontein, Cape Town, South Africa
Height1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)[2]
Weight70 kg (154 lb)[2]
SportTrack and field
Coached byAnna "Tannie Ans" Botha[4]
Achievements and titles
  • 100 m: 9.94 (Velenje, 2017)[5]
  • 200 m: 19.84 (Kingston, 2017)[6][1]
  • 300 m: 30.81 WB (Ostrava, 2017)[7]
  • 400 m: 43.03 WR (Rio de Janeiro, 2016)[8]

Early life

Van Niekerk was born in Kraaifontein, Cape Town, to Wayne van Niekerk and sprinter Odessa Swarts.[12] He was born prematurely and needed a blood transfusion.[13] Van Niekerk attended Bellville Primary[14] and Simonberg Primary. until he and his mother moved to Bloemfontein in 2005.[12] There he went to Grey College before going on to study marketing at the University of the Free State.[15]


He made his international debut at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where he placed fourth in the 200m 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.[16] His senior breakthrough came at the age of eighteen at the 2011 South African Athletics Championships when he won the 200m title in a new personal best time of 20.57 seconds.[17] He competed in the same 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 time of 46.43 seconds.[18]

The 2013 season marked Van Niekerk's emergence as a 400m 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.[19] 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.[20] He entered the 400 metres at the 2013 Summer Universiade and narrowly missed out on the final as the fastest non-qualifier.[21] 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. His performances earned him a place in the 400m at the 2013 World Championships, where he did not progress past the heats.[16]

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, and 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.[22] A 200m best of 20.19 seconds followed to a fourth-place finish at the Athletissima meet.[18] He entered both sprint events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and won his first individual senior medal over 400m, 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 200m, but did not repeat his success of the longer sprint.[23]

2015 proved to be the start of Van Niekerk's status as a sprinting phenom. On July 4th, 2015, Van Niekerk lowered his South African record to below 44 seconds with a 43.96 at the Meeting Areva and ranking himself in the all-time top 12, whilst beating Kirani James for the first time. Ten days later, on July 14th, 2015, he won a 200m race at the Luzern Spitzen Leichtathletik in 19.94 seconds, his first 200m run under 20 seconds. This also made him the second man in history to have gone under 20 seconds for the 200m, and 44 seconds for the 400m. A month later, Van Niekerk represented South Africa at the 2015 World Championships in Athletics, focusing sorely on the 400m. Winning his heat, Van Niekerk managed to beat LaShawn Merritt, with the defending champion taking second. The results repeated in the final, as he won gold in 43.48 seconds, making him the fourth-fastest runner of all time, ahead of Merritt who was running his personal best as the sixth-fastest in 43.65.[24] Kirani James finished third in 43.78 seconds, a season's best.

On 12 March 2016, Van Niekerk 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.[25] Van Niekerk qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics and was the flag bearer for South Africa.[26]

Van Niekerk won the gold medal in the 400 metres at the 2016 Summer Olympics with a world record[27] time of 43.03 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson's record time 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.[28] Van Niekerk's Olympic win 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 Association of National Olympic Committees Best Male Athlete of the Rio 2016 Olympics award.[29]

On 8 August 2017, Van Niekerk successfully defended his 400 metres world title at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in London with a time of 43.98 seconds. Two days later he finished second in the 200m 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.

On 31 October 2017, Van Niekerk participated in a celebrity funded rugby match that was sponsored by FC soccer. During this match, he unfortunately made an inverted cut and tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). He began treatment immediately after surgery and due to this injury, he was unable to attend any meets during the year of 2018.[30] Wayde van Niekerk has been in intense rehabilitation throughout 2018, to prepare himself for the beginning of the 2019 season and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On 31 May 2019, it was announced that he would run at the IAAF Diamond League event in London in July, his first major race since his comeback from injury.[31]

Van Niekerk's coach is Ans Botha, who is known to her athletes as Tannie Ans, Afrikaans for Aunty Ans.[32][33] His manager is Peet van Zyl.[34]

Personal life

Van Niekerk married Chesney Campbell on 29 October 2017. He is the cousin of South African rugby union and rugby sevens player Cheslin Kolbe.[35] 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.[34]

Van Niekerk's biological parents are divorced, and he was living with his mother Odessa Swarts and step-father Steven Swarts in Bloemfontein as of 2016.[12]

Van Niekerk supports Liverpool Football Club.[28] He is a Christian, tweeting "Jesus Did It" and "GOD IS POWER" after setting the world record for the 400 metres.[36]


Information from IAAF profile unless otherwise noted.[37]

400 metres world record split times

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.[38]

Personal bests

100 m9.94International Athletic MeetingVelenje, Slovenia20 June 2017
200 m19.84Racers Grand PrixKingston, Jamaica10 June 2017
300 m30.81Golden SpikeOstrava, Czech Republic28 June 2017WB [39][40][41]
400 m43.03Olympic GamesRio de Janeiro, Brazil14 August 2016WR, OR
4 × 100 m relay38.84African ChampionshipsDurban, South Africa24 June 2016
4 × 400 m relay3:00.02Continental CupMarrakesh, Morocco14 September 2014

Seasonal bests

Year200 metres400 metres

International championship results

RepresentingSouth Africa
2010World Junior ChampionshipsMoncton, New Brunswick4th200 m21.02PB
4th (semi 1)4 × 100 m relay40.32PB
2011African Junior ChampionshipsGaborone, BotswanaDNF200 m
2013UniversiadeKazan, Russia3rd (semi 2)400 m46.39
2nd4 × 400 m relay3:06.19PB
World ChampionshipsMoscow, Russia5th (qf 5)400 m46.37
2014Commonwealth GamesGlasgow, Scotland2nd400 m44.68
5th (semi 2)200 m20.69
African ChampionshipsMarrakesh, Morocco2nd400 m45.00
RepresentingAfrica (orthographic projection).svgAfrica
2014Continental CupMarrakesh, Morocco4th400 m45.27
1st4 × 400 m relay3:00.02PB
RepresentingSouth Africa
2015World ChampionshipsBeijing, China1st400 m43.48WL, NR, PB
2016African ChampionshipsDurban, South Africa1st4 × 100 m relay38.84PB
1st200 m20.02SB
Olympic GamesRio de Janeiro, Brazil1st400 m43.03WR, OR
2017World ChampionshipsLondon, England1st400 m43.98
2nd200 m20.11

National titles

  • South African Championships 200 metres: 2011, 2017 400 metres: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

  • South African Junior Championships 100 metres: 2011 200 metres: 2011

Circuit wins

300 metres

  • Diamond League Grand Prix Birmingham: 2015

400 metres

  • Diamond League Adidas Grand Prix: 2015 Meeting de Paris: 2015 Anniversary Games: 2015 Golden Gala Pietro Mennea: 2016 Herculis: 2016, 2017 Athletissima: 2017


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