Saturday 1 October 2016

Sprint kings eye 300m clash after Van Niekerk's stunning show

Ben Bloom

Published 16/08/2016 | 02:30

Van Niekerk finishes well ahead of his opponents to win the 400M gold, setting a new world record. Photo: Reuters
Van Niekerk finishes well ahead of his opponents to win the 400M gold, setting a new world record. Photo: Reuters

Having dominated the sprinting world for almost a decade, Usain Bolt has offered the tantalising prospect of bowing out from international competition with a showdown against new 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, suggesting he would be keen to race the South African over 300m.

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Van Niekerk produced one of the finest pieces of sprinting ever seen to eclipse Michael Johnson's 17-year-old record in Rio on Sunday night, winning Olympic gold in 43.03 seconds despite running in the far outside lane eight.

South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk celebrates his new world record in the men's 400-meter. Photo: Reuters
South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk celebrates his new world record in the men's 400-meter. Photo: Reuters

Bolt won his seventh Olympic title with victory over 100m minutes later and the Jamaican said he would fancy his chances in a face-off over the rarely run 300m.

Read more: Paul Hayward: 'Immortal' Bolt creates a magic like no other

"That would be a good race," said Bolt. "He can't beat me over 200m. I am not worried about that, but I am really proud of him because when he came to Jamaica I said to him: 'Listen, you are the only person that I think can break this 400m world record'.

"He keeps on going, so for me I wasn't really surprised that he got it. He looked in good shape.

Chance

"This year I was hoping that I was in good shape when my coach told me that they were going to put on a 300m. I wasn't in the best of shape. Hopefully next season, if he's in good shape, we might get a chance to run."

While Bolt is the world record holder over 100m and 200m, Van Niekerk is the only man in history to run sub-10 seconds over 100m, sub-20 seconds over 200m and sub-44 seconds over 400m.

Neither of them holds the 300m record of 30.85sec, which belongs to Johnson, although Bolt is second in the list with 30.97sec and Van Niekerk third with 31.03sec.

Any showdown between the two sprint kings would echo the much-hyped 150m clash between Johnson and former Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey in 1997.

Around 30,000 people watched in Toronto as the two Olympic champions raced to determine the "fastest man in the world".

However Johnson, who was losing, pulled up injured on the finishing straight to allow Bailey to take the $1.5m prize money.

The astonishing manner of Van Niekerk's Olympic 400m victory propelled him into the spotlight a year after claiming the world title.

Predominantly a 200m runner until three years ago, Van Niekerk only made the step up when his coach Anna Botha decided to halt persistent hamstring injuries by focusing more on endurance. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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