Wayde Van Niekerk is a clean sports athlete from South Africa, and when he shattered the record in the 400m men’s track event at the rio Olympics, fans were ecstatic. In the final line-up, he was running in lane 8, which some athletes think is the worst as there are times when the athlete is running blind to his opponents. LaShawn Merritt of the USA was running in best choice lane 5, but Van Niekerk swept him into third place when he beat the 17-year-old World and Olympic record set by Michael Johnson in 43.03 seconds. The Olympic stadium went crazy, rising to their feet in a standing ovation as they witnessed historyin the making.

Fan chat focused on clean sport

Fan chat on social media tended to overlook silver medalist Kirani James, despite him being the defending Olympic champion at Rio, as they focussed on issues of clean sport and failed drug tests. Merritt failed three drugs tests between October 2009 and January 2010 and it was reported by the BBC in 2010 that he admitted to the sports crime when he said he made a “foolish, immature and egotistical mistake." Accurately predicting that Merritt would have to live with this for the rest of life, Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track and Field said at the time that “Merritt had sullied his career.”

Such is the nature of sports and clean sport in particular that within moments of his record win, searches on Twitter for Wayde Van Niekerk, drug doping, and cheating went through the roof. Undoubtedly Wayde can expect anti-doping tests as even the BBC said after the amazing race that it is to be hoped new record holders are not doping.

Drug-free run into history

These days, athletes and their fans have a very low tolerance for dirty sport and Merritt was slagged off on Twitter with fans saying he should not even be allowed to compete. Sports fans have long memories, so there is a special place in the world of fans for those athletes who perform well when they are clean. Wayde Van Niekerk has run himself into the history books with no drug blemishes in his career so far.

Wayde comes from a predominantly Christian nation and four days ago when he wrote on Instagram, “All I need and Pray for is your presence and to never let go of my side in this Journey,” – many of his fans loved him for that. After his win, whee-44 wrote “You've been putting God first in your life for a long time, & now He has blessed you with a world record! A true testament to faith in God!”

Success didn’t come overnight for Wayde

The 24-year-old athlete came from beautiful Cape Town in South Africa and attended the University of Freestate where he studied marketing.

His first international debut was at the 2010 World Junior Championship, but it took him a further four years to start to shine when he won his first medal as a senior in an individual event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he was placed second behind Kirani James.

Last year Van Niekerk became the fastest non-American on the 400m men’s track when he won the gold at the IAAF World Championships. Wayde credits a lot of his success to his 74-year-old coach Ans Botha. Anticipating something good, and taking into account his track record and his unblemished image as a clean sports athlete, he was nominated to be the Rio Olympics Flag Bearer for South Africa.

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