14 AUGUST 2016
Wayde blitzes to new world record and grabs SA’s first gold in Rio
By Mark Etheridge
Ten days ago he waved the flag for Team South Africa as the world looked on at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio. Sunday saw Wayde van Niekerk ruling the world as he raced to gold in the 400-metre track event, earning South Africa’s first track gold medal since re-admission to world sport back in 1992.
In imperious form from gun to line, Van Niekerk was never headed as he also obliterated United States superstar Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old record of 43.18 seconds with a time of 43.03.
The victory earned Team SA their first gold of the Games to go with their five silvers and bronze and with just under a week to go to add even more medals to that.
Winning gold meant South Africa jumped from 41 st to 21 st on the medals table. Speaking afterwards Van Niekerk was still shell-shocked. ‘I’d love to tell you guys more but I honestly can’t remember the race, I’ll have to go back and watch it on television,’ he smiled bemusedly. ‘All I know is that I left it all out there tonight. I left it in God’s hands here at a challenging Olympics. ‘I ran blind the whole race, I still don’t know what happened out there but it was just so awesome to be here and inspired by guys like Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, and tonight guys who I ran against like Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt.
‘I struggled with a few niggles and nerves here but I had my whole family here to share this opportunity. ‘What I can remember is that I thought someone would catch me, it was quite lonely out there and thought “what’s going on?” but I kept on pushing and even dived a bit for the finish line. ‘In terms of strategy it was just to go and do my best. I just went for it. When I saw the time I was really amazed. I went out there for any medal tonight.. just wanted top three, I got that, a world record, lifetime best.. wow.
‘The demons didn’t catch me’ – Manyonga
By Gary Lemke
It was the afternoon after the night before and as Luvo Manyonga, the feel good South African story of these Olympic Games so far, sat next to the country’s sporting dignitaries, he allowed himself to reflect.
It was a reflection not only on Saturday night in the Olympic stadium, where a final leap of 8.37m seemed to have been enough to win the country’s first gold medal in Rio, until it was snatched away from him by one centimetre, by Jeff Henderson of the United States. Such are the small margins in sport, as in life itself.
‘I didn’t really sleep, I’m still on SA time,’ a beaming Manyonga told the media in the athletes village, flanked by the Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula, SASCOC chief executive and chef de mission in Rio, Tubby Reddy, and SASCOC president Gideon Sam.
Manyonga’s story has been well documented, but for those who don’t know, here:
it is in a nutshell: The 25-year-old from Mbekweni township outside Paarl in the Western Cape, has always been a prodigious talent. He won gold at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Canada and looked to have the world at his feet. However, like many teenagers (he was 19) he fell victim to the daily pitfalls of township life and was dragged down. His life quickly spiralled in the wrong direction and he was dragged into the dark world of recreational drugs. Not only did he serve an 18-month ban but also his coach, Mario Smith, was killed in a car accident in 2014. There is more to tell, but that for the young man to reveal in his own time and on his own terms.
How Team SA fared on Sunday
South Africa had competitors in action across three sporting codes on Sunday. Here’s a list of competitors and times of competition, local time (SA time in brackets).
Men’s final round: Brandon Stone carded a final round four-over 75 for a tally of 293. He had rounds of 75, 72, 71 and 75 and was tied 55th. Jaco van Zyl was tied for 43rd with a final score of 286 and rounds of 71, 74, 70 and 71.
Women’s marathon: Dina Lebo Phalula finished 63rd in a time of 2hr 41min 46sec, Christine Kalmer ended in 96th position with a time of 2:48:24. Irvette van Zyl was injured and did not participate in the race.
In a nutshell: Phalula was 76:58 at halfway in 64th position so in terms of positioning she was extremely consistent. She ended up 17:42 behind Kenyan winner Jemima Sumgong. Kalmer, whose sister Rene ran the last Olympic Marathon in London four years ago, ended 24:20 off the winning time. She went through halfway in 1:18:18 (80th position.).
What they said: (Phalula) It was a good experience being my first Olympics. In the end it was just to get to the finish line. Conditions were so hot but I couldn’t be a spectator. If you’re not there at the finish line you’re not an Olympian. I was just running, with no watch, I just hung in there and wanted to get to the finish.’
(Kalmer) ‘I was disappointed. I had a good start and then tried to slow down but then I ended in no man’s land. I would have really been happy with a time of 2:38. I tried hard to latch on to people but never really managed to. The scenery was really beautiful but now I just need a break, the build up of more than a year was a long time.’
Men’s 100m semi-final, Akani Simbine ended third in a time of 9.98 in the first of three semi-finals, behind France’s Jimmy Vicault (9.95) and Ben Yousef Meite of Coite d’Ivoire (9.97). Olympic champion and world recordholder Usain Bolt led the way into the final with a 9.86 season’s best.
Men’s 400m final: Wayde van Niekerk obliterated the world record with a barnstorming run of 43.03 seconds to add to his 2014 Commonwealth Games silver and World Championships gold medal of last year. Previous best was Michael American Johnson’s 43.18 in Seville 17 years ago. 10.25pm (3.25am), Men’s 100m final, Simbine went on to finish fifth in 9.94 as
Usain Bolt defended his Olympic title with a win in a season’s best 9.81sec
Men’s 470 class, races seven, eight and nine, Asenathi Jim and Roger Hudson finished 18th and 11th respectively with race nine having to be rescheduled.