400m Through Hell & Into History
On Sunday evening, 14 August, South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk won gold at the Rio Olympics for the 400m with a time of 43.03.
He also made history.
Not only was it his first Olympic medal, it is also his first world record, smashing sprint legend Michael Johnson’s time of 43.18. That record stood untouched for almost 17 years.
The 400m is, in my personal experience, pure hell.
It’s the toughest sprint event out there. You’re beating every bit of stored energy out of your muscles for what seems to be an eternity, all the while trying to gauge your position around two bends from a staggered start. Body and mind, perfectly in sync, under fire.
Consider this, an Olympic-level 100m time is shade under 10 seconds. The 200m, just under 20 (Wayde is also the first person to have run under 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 seconds for 200m and 44 for 400m).
To pull off the 400m like Wayde did, you’ve got to run four back-to-back 100m in 10,75 seconds.
Four of them!
That Wayde managed to do that running in the 8th lane, where you can only really see your opponents in the final meters of the final bend, is the stuff of legends. The previous best from the outside lane was 44.66.
If you watched Wayde’s race, what you saw was sporting history being forged in some of the most savagely demanding circumstances you could ever imagine.
Wayde van Niekerk, you have made South Africa so proud. We are not worthy.