Sprinter Wayde van Niekerk fired another warning at his opponents in Lausanne on Thursday night, delivering a spectacular performance in his first international 400m race of the season.
The world record holder was just off the pace of Isaac Makwala of Botswana turning into the finishing straight, but he changed gears and eased clear, coasting across the line to win in 43.62 seconds at the Diamond League meeting.
He broke the 21-year-old meeting record of 43.66 which had been held by Michael Johnson, with the South African speedster shattering yet another of the American legend’s long-standing marks.
“It was my first race in Europe this year and my first 400m, so I didn’t come with a specific time in mind, but I am pleased with this result,” Van Niekerk said.
After producing superb form over every sprint distance this season, Van Niekerk believed he could go even quicker in the one-lap event in the build-up to the World Championships in London next month, where he was aiming for a rare 200m/400m double.
“I will have one more competition before London. There I want to put on a show and aim for a great time.”
Compatriot Akani Simbine again flaunted his superb form, dipping under 10 seconds for the 15th time in his career to take third place in the men’s 100m sprint.
Simbine completed the short dash in 9.99, with Henricho Bruintjies finishing sixth in 10.15.
American Justin Gatlin won a closely contested race in 9.96.
After starting well, Commonwealth Games champion Cornel Fredericks looked strong off the top bend but he faded down the home straight to finish fifth in 49.32 in the 400m hurdles, crossing the line 0.05 outside his season’s best.
Countryman LJ van Zyl ended seventh in 50.04.
In the women’s javelin throw, Sunette Viljoen was well below her best, settling for sixth place with a 61.38m heave.
Meanwhile, 400m hurdler Wenda Nel was the only SA athlete in the provisional entry lists for the ninth of 14 legs in the Diamond League series, to be held in London on Sunday.