After concentrating on the 200m dash in the early stages of his career, and later moving up in distance as a 400m specialist, Wayde van Niekerk has firmly established his place among the most versatile sprinters in the history of the sport. At the age of 24, he has already earned world and Olympic titles, and at the 2016 Rio Games he became the first South African athlete in 41 years to set a track and field world record when he chopped 0.15 off the 17-year-old global mark (43.18) held by American legend Michael Johnson, charging to victory despite running blind from the start in lane eight.
Van Niekerk showed promise from an early age, and after missing out on a medal by 0.02 in the half-lap final at the 2010 World Junior Championships, he won his first national senior title the following year, also over the 200m distance, at the age of 18. For the next two seasons, however, he struggled with injury, hampering the early stages of his senior career. Working with coach Ans Botha, they started a new programme, and in 2014 he enjoyed a breakthrough campaign by taking silver medals in the 400m event at the Commonwealth Games and the African Championships. He also smashed the long-standing SA 400m record by 0.21 when he clocked 44.38 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in New York.
The next year he dipped under 44 seconds for the first time in the one-lap event, breaking the African record, and outclassed the top one-lap sprinters on the global circuit to
win the world title against a full-strength field in Beijing. By adding the Olympic crown the following season, and setting the fastest time in history, he catapulted himself into
the highest echelon of international athletics stars. Van Niekerk went on to retain his one-lap title at the 2017 World Championships in London, and he added the 200m silver medal to his collection as he flaunted his remarkable versatility in a rare double.
Though he was sidelined from the track for a couple of years with a serious knee injury, he bounced back in 2020 and qualified for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.
A unique athlete, he holds the distinction of being the first man to have run under 10 seconds over 100m, 20 seconds over 200m and 44 seconds over 400m. He also boasts the fastest time in history in the 300m, seen as an unofficial distance by the IAAF.
A four-time SA champion in the 400m event, he holds the eight fastest times in the national all-time rankings in the one-lap dash, and his personal bests over 100m and 200m place him among the top three in the SA rankings over both distances.
100m: 9.94 (Velenje, June 2017)
200m: 19.84 (Jamiaca, June 2017)
300m: 30.81 (Ostrava, June 2017)
400m: 43.03 (Rio de Janeiro, August 2016)
World Championships, London 2017 (1st 400m, 43.98; 2nd 200m, 20.11)
Olympic Games – Rio 2016 (1st 400m, 43.03)
World Championships – Beijing 2015 (1st 400m, 43.48)
Commonwealth Games – Glasgow 2014 (2nd 400m, 44.68)
African Championships – Durban 2016 (1st 200m, 20.02; 1st 4x100m, 38.84)
Continental Cup – Marrakech 2014 (1st 4x400m, 3:00.03; 4th 400m, 45.27; 2nd 400m, 45.00)
World Student Games – Kazan 2013 (3rd 4x400m relay, 3:06.19)
World Junior Championships – Moncton 2010 (4th 200m, 21.02)