South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk ran the fastest single lap in history to win the Olympic 400 meters gold medal in 43.03 seconds and break Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record on Sunday.
Running an extraordinary race in lane eight, the 24-year-old world champion got off to a flier and was streaking clear on the back straight before upping his pace even further to better American Johnson’s 1999 mark of 43.18 seconds.
“I believed I could get the world record,” Van Niekerk told reporters. “I’ve dreamed of this medal since forever. I am blessed.”
Van Niekerk marked himself as the leading contender for Rio when he led home Merritt and James with an exceptional run to win gold at last year’s world championships in Beijing, where the podium again all ran under 44 seconds.
This year, he became the first sprinter to run the 100 below 10 seconds, 200 under 20 seconds and 400 in less than 44 seconds before deciding to concentrate on the longest distance in Brazil.