Olympian Wayde Van Niekerk Broke A World Record With The Help Of A Great-Grandmother Who's Also His Coach

Her approach offers "something a little different psychologically."

On Sunday night, South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson's world record in the 400-meter race. Sharing in the historic celebration was his coach and a great-grandmother, Anna Botha.

In 2012, van Niekerk enrolled at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein and linked up with the 74-year-old great-grandmother, where she has been coaching since 1990. 

Due to her guidance and belief that "you are never too old to learn," it was then that he decided to shift his focus from the 200-meter and long jumping to the 400-meter. 


In 2013, the South African flag-bearer began making progress in the 400-meter. While he was almost a full 2 seconds off the world record time, at 45.09 seconds, he began to develop his world-record pace thanks to Botha's philosophy of "guts and determination."

She told IAAF.org, "I dearly love all my athletes, but it's about being strict … We can laugh, but when we have to work hard, we work hard." 

She also added that, as a woman, she can offer "something a little different psychologically."

Something clicked, because the 24-year-old speedster ran the race in a blistering 43.03 seconds. Michael Johnson previously held the world record at 43.18 seconds and the Olympic record at 43.49 seconds, according to SB Nation.

After the race, as per CNN, van Niekerk said, "I'm really grateful I can go on the track and say my coach has pushed me to reach every level and believes anything is possible."

The previous world-record holder was also watching the race.

He tweeted some well-wishes after witnessing the historic accomplishment, saying, "Congratulations @WaydeDreamer to you and your coach! Well done and deserved. Olympic Gold and World record. I know the feeling!"

Usain Bolt was also blown away by van Niekerk's speed, rushing into the stands to offer some words to the new world-record holder.

Bolt won gold for a third straight Olympics in the 100-meter race on Sunday night.

Congrats once again to one of the fastest men alive!


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