Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa Zips to World Record in 400

Bursting out of the blocks in Lane 8, Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa did not see another runner during the entire Olympic 400-meter final...

Bursting out of the blocks in Lane 8, Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa did not see another runner during the entire Olympic 400-meter final.

He didn’t need to. His only real competition was the clock.

The South African sprinter broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record on Sunday night in Rio de Janeiro, leaving two of the greatest one-lap runners of this era in his dust. Van Niekerk finished in 43.03 seconds — 0.15 of a second faster than Johnson’s time in 1999. Johnson’s mark had been considered one of the almost untouchable records in track. The 24-year-old van Niekerk leaned at the finish line, which he really didn’t need to do as Kirani James of Grenada and LaShawn Merritt of the United States weren’t even in the picture. James, the defending Olympic champion, finished with the silver, and Merritt, who won gold eight years ago in Beijing, hung on for bronze as he staggered across the line.

“I was running blind all the way,” van Niekerk said. “I thought someone was going to catch me — what’s going on, what’s going on, and it gave me motivation to keep on pushing.”

Van Niekerk drove a wedge in rivalry between James and Merritt at the world championships last August, when he beat them both with such a lung-searing performance that he left the track on a stretcher.

Now, he is the fastest ever.

This time at the finish, instead of collapsing, van Niekerk dropped to one knee and put his head in his hands. Moments later, he put the multicolor South African flag around his shoulders and took off his spikes. As he did so, van Niekerk pointed at the clock to make sure everyone saw his time. Hard to miss. It was that impressive.

Colombian Soars to Gold in Triple Jump

Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia leapt 15.17 meters to snatch a gold medal in the women’s triple jump, fending off Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela to continue her dominance in the event.

Ibargüen, the two-time world champion, was a favorite going into the Rio Games and produced a season’s best jump in the fourth round of the final to take gold.

Rojas’s best of 14.98 meters, also in the fourth round, was enough for silver.

Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan, the London Olympics champion, pulled off the two best jumps of her season, but her 14.74 meters in the fifth round was good enough only for bronze.

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Today in Kenya: Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa Zips to World Record in 400
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