Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
1 minute read
12 Mar 2016
4:41 pm

Van Niekerk makes history in Bloem

Wesley Botton

His performance was just 0.02 outside the national record set by Akani Simbine four days earlier.

FILE PICTURE: Wayde van Niekerk. Picture: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk made a statement on Saturday, in the early stages of the Olympic season, clocking 9.98 seconds to win the men’s 100m title at the Free State Championships in Bloemfontein.

His performance was just 0.02 outside the national record set by Akani Simbine four days earlier.

Holding personal bests of 19.94 over 200m and 43.48 in his specialist 400m event, Van Niekerk’s latest feat made him one of the most unique sprinters in the world.

By dipping under 10 seconds in the short dash he became the first athlete ever to break the 10-second, 20-second and 44-second barriers over the three distances.

Van Niekerk has now also achieved the qualifying standard in all three sprints for the Rio Olympics in August.

With potential inclusion in the 4x100m and 4x400m relay events, it was unclear how many races he would run at the Games, though he did insist last year he would compete in only one individual event, his specialist one-lap sprint.

With provincial track and field championships taking place around the country over the weekend, resurgent long jump star Luvo Manyonga also displayed fine early-season form.

Competing in only his second top-flight event since returning from a recreational drug addiction, Manyonga produced a leap of 8.30m at the Gauteng North Championships in Pretoria.

The former world junior champion improved his four-year-old personal best by four centimetres to firmly establish his place among the potential medal contenders for the Rio Games.