Wayde van Niekerk: South African smashes 400-meter world record to take gold

Wayde van Niekerk broke a record set by Michael Johnson in 1999.

Story highlights

South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk breaks 400m world record en route to gold

Van Niekerk beats the mark previously set by Michael Johnson in 1999

London 2012 champion Kirani James finishes second

Rio de Janeiro CNN  — 

On a night when Usain Bolt stole the headlines, it was South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk who delivered one of the standout performances of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The 24-year-old smashed the 400-meter world record held by track and field legend Michael Johnson since 1999, taking the gold ahead of defending champion Kirani James with a time of 43.03 seconds.

And Johnson was quick to congratulate van Niekerk, tweeting: “Congratulations @WaydeDreamer to you and your coach! Well done and deserved. Olympic Gold and World record. I know the feeling!”

Van Niekerk’s dominant run was all the more impressive considering he ran in lane eight, with James and American LaShawn Merritt, who took the bronze medal, out of his line of sight for the entire race.

Read: Usain Bolt makes Olympic history

His incredible athleticism is underlined by the fact he’s the first man to run under 10 seconds over 100 meters and sub 20 seconds over 200 meters as well as breaking the 44 second barrier over 400 meters.

Van Niekerk’s run electrified an Olympic Stadium crowd who arrived expecting fireworks from Bolt but instead left in awe of track and field’s newest superstar.