Wayde van Niekerk celebrates his victory in the men’s 400m race at the IAAF Diamond League international meeting at the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday. PICTURE: EPA

CAPE TOWN - Wayde van Niekerk’s preparations for next month’s world championships in London seem to be perfectly on track.

The 24-year-old’s first 400m race of the season at the Lausanne Diamond League event on Thursday ended in record-breaking fashion.

Van Niekerk clocked an impressive 43.62 seconds, which is not only the fastest time this year, but South Africa’s golden boy also managed to surpass Michael Johnson’s 21-year-old record at the same meeting.

Van Niekerk told media after the race that he was happy with his overall performance.

“The public was great. That really helps in an event like the 400m,” he remarked.

"It's my first race in Europe this year and my first 400m. I didn’t come with a specific time in mind but I'm pleased with this result,” Van Niekerk said.

As the world 400m record-holder and Olympic champion caught his breath after sprinting to victory in Switzerland, the excitement levels in the Swarts family home in Goue Gerf Street in Pellissier, Bloemfontein, 13 000km away, went through the roof.

This is where Odessa Swarts, Wayde’s proud mother, resides.

“My kids and my aunt who is visiting, and my niece, everyone was watching it (the race) with us.

“Everyone was on their feet watching the race.

“It was excitement all around,” his mother told Independent Media.

Swarts says she was in contact with Van Niekerk right after his race in Lausanne.

“He’s in a very good frame of mind, very positive.

"Thursday night’s race just put him at ease, knowing that he’s on par for the world championships.”

Van Niekerk has been in sensational form and has dominated world headlines over the past few weeks.

The athlete ran a personal best time of 9.94 seconds in the 100m and posted a time of 19.84 seconds in the 200m last month.

Last week in Ostrava in the Czech Republic he posted a new world record time in the 300m race, which doesn’t often feature on the athletics programme.

Swarts, who’s easily her record-breaking son’s biggest fan, is also pleased with his preparations for the world championships, which get under way in London on August 5.

“He surprises us every time. Because he's still struggling with niggles with his hamstring and his back, with each and every record he's broken now he has surprised us all.

“Every single stepping stone just gets him closer to that 42 (second barrier).

"It just makes you excited to see that, just a month away from the world championships, these are the times he is running already.

“The time that he ran on Thursday night is his third-fastest 400m ever, so for his first 400m (race of the season) it just makes you excited.”

At the Rio Olympic Games last year, Van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson’s 400m record - an achievement that earned him praise from the fastest man on the planet, Jamaica's Olympic star Usain Bolt.

“If you look at what he achieved last year at the Olympics, he was in severe pain with his back and his hamstring and he went and broke the world record,” said Swarts.

“So I think there is no limit if he is 100% in form and with no niggles.

"If you think about it, our sprinters train for the 100m.

“It's a totally different ball game when training for the 400m and (training for) a shorter sprint.

“I mean, with a 400m training programme, he runs a 9.98 (in the 100m) and he still has niggles.

"Imagine if he would be on a 100m programme and still be niggle-free, I think there'll be no stopping him.

"It's not just because I’m his mother. I honestly believe it. That is just what I think.”

Swarts won’t be joining Van Niekerk at the London event next month because she is due to undergo minor surgery, which will see her on the sidelines for eight weeks.

However, she’ll still be cheering for her son back home as he once again goes for gold.

The world championships take place in the British capital from August 5 to 13.


Weekend Argus

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