The Guard

The Truth On Board


By Bongani Tshabalala

BLOEMFONTEIN-Wayde Van Niekerk who won the 2016 Olympic 400m in world record time is leaving South Africa and his long-time coach, 79 year old And Botha to join Noah Lyles’s training group in Florida. The 400m world record holder will join reigning 200m world champion Noah Lyle’s and fellow Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller- Uibo in Claremont, Florida to train under sprinting coach Lance Brauman. Van Niekerk and Lyle are not expected to be in direct individual competition in Tokyo. Lyle runs the 100m and 200m.

Though he won the 2017 silver medal in Lyles’s injury forced absence, Van Niekerk is expected to stick to the 400m this summer. Van Niekerk’s move to the U.S. marks the end of a nine year partnership with Ans ‘Tannie’ Botha. Botha, now 79, began coaching Wayde in 2012 when he was at University in South Africa. “I’ve spent most of my career under the guidance of ‘Tannie’ Ans” Wayde said in a statement announcing his coaching change.

“I can’t express the gratitude I have for everything she has done to help me get to this point in my career”, he wrote. “As much as I have enjoyed my experience with Tannie Ans and her group, I am hoping to break my world record”, he noted, Van Niekerk ran his world record at the Rio Olympics in 2016, crossing the line in 43.03 seconds then won the gold. He said he believes his best chance at breaking his world record would be by training alongside Lyles and other top sprinters ahead of the Tokyo Games.

Van Niekerk unstoppable.

This is not the first time Van Niekerk has made such a move, in 2016 he trained with Usain Bolt in Jamaica in the build up to the Rio Olympics. He is now looking for a similar spark to the one he found back then ahead of his world record in the 400m final. Van Niekerk who came so close to breaking 43 seconds in Rio, said that is his goal is moving forward. He wants to break his world record, but 43.01 or 43.02 won’t satisfy him. This would be an incredible result under normal circumstances, but Van Niekerk is coming off an injury (he tore his ACL in 2017) that kept him out of competition for more than two years, which will make running sub-43 even more remarkable.

The champion made his comeback last February and competed six times throughout 2020, winning each of his races, and he looks to be ready to continue his streak this season as he works towards Tokyo. Breaking the world record again would be an even greater feat given Van Niekerk’s obstacles during the last three and a half years, Van Niekerk will re-assess his plans after the Tokyo Olympics