JOHANNESBURG – Continuing on his rampaging run since breaking the world record, Wayde van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson’s 400m meeting record at the Lausanne Diamond League on Thursday night, posting a world lead of 43.62 seconds.
A month away from the IAAF World Championships in London, Van Niekerk boasts with the world lead in both the 200m and the 400m after improving Johnson’s meet record by 0.04.
This certainly bodes well for the South African’s chances of emulating Johnson’s double from the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg.
It was an African 1-2-3 in Lausanne in the 400m, with Baboleki Thebe and former continental record-holder Isaac Makwala from Botswana finishing behind Van Niekerk in second and third respectively.
The 20-year-old Thebe posted a new personal best time of 44.02, with Makwala following in 44.08.
Van Niekerk ran a measured race as he went out in what seemed like a leisurely run, but still managed to lead from start to finish.
Makwala gave Van Niekerk a strong challenge going out of the final bend, with the South African changing up the gears to move away from the rest of the field.
Racing in his first international 400m of the season, Van Niekerk is living up to the hype as the next big thing of track and field.
“It is my first race in Europe this year and my first 400m. I didn’t come with a specific time in mind, but I am pleased with this result,” Van Niekerk told the Diamond League website after the race.
“I will have one more competition before London. There I want to put on a show and aim for a great time.”
The South African 400m world record-holder has been showing improvements in almost every distance he takes on, racing to new personal bests in the 100m, 200m and 300m so far this season.
He sprinted to a new South African 200m record in Kingston, Jamaica last month with a time of 19.84 before knocking 0.04 off his 100m time of 9.94 in Velenje 10 days later.
Before the Lausanne race, Van Niekerk sprinted to a new 300m world best, breaking yet another Johnson record by posting a time of 30.81 at the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting.
Meanwhile, despite a relatively slow start, South Africa’s “Mr Sub-10 Seconds” Akani Simbine raced to third place in Lausanne with a time of 9.99 in the 100m.
Former world champion Justin Gatlin of the United States dipped first over the line in 9.96, with Ivorian Ben Youssef Meité finishing second in 9.98.
It was Simbine’s sixth podium finish on the international circuit this season and the 15th time he dipped below 10 seconds in the 100m.
The South African will be looking for some fine-tuning when he backs into the blocks at his final track meeting at the Monaco Diamond League later this month ahead of the world championships.
It was an otherwise uneventful night for the rest of the South African contingent, with Olympic silver medallist Sunette Viljoen finishing sixth in the javelin with a best throw of 61.38m.
South Africa’s two leading 400m hurdlers Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl missed out on the top-three places in their race.
Taking the race out hard, Fredericks faded towards the end to take fifth in 49.32, with Van Zyl crossing the line seventh in 50.04.