Wayde van Niekerk wins men’s 400m final at world championships

Wayde Van Neikerk

Wayde van Niekerk became the fourth fastest man in history over 400m as he won his first world championship title, holding off the defending champion LaShawn Merritt and the Olympic gold medalist Kirani James in Beijing.

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Shortly after Van Niekerk crossed the line he required medical treatment beside the track and left the Bird’s Nest in an ambulance, but South African team leader, Peter Lourens, said the 23-year-old is OK. “It’s exhaustion. They are taking him to hospital for observation.”

Van Niekerk went out hard and held on to win in 43.48secs. Merritt took silver in a personal best 43.65secs and James finished third in a season-best 43.78secs.

Merritt came off the final bend together with his South African rival but the experienced American faded along the home straight and finished just ahead of the advancing James in the first 400m race to feature three men running under 44secs.

“It was a special occasion,” James told the BBC after the race. “A once-in-a-lifetime race and I am glad to be part of a special group of 400m runners in this era.”

The British athlete Rabah Yousif finished sixth in 44.68secs, one tenth shy of his personal best. “There were a lot of fireworks in the final,” Rabah said afterwards. “I tried to come out and put in a decent performance but it was just beyond my reach. I will take that, go home and come back and cause some problems.

“It is quite an achievement for me to come here and make the final and run 44 seconds back to back, but I will come back stronger.”

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