He stepped on the track on intent on winning the Gold for South Africa. But produced a moment that sent the hair on the back of our heads all tingling. Up against two other men at the very peak of their powers James and LaShawn Merrit lining up, Wayde van Niekerk had to deliver something special, and boy did he do just that!
He changed gears at 150m to cross the finish line at 43.03s obliterating Michael Johson’s 17 year old world record by a margin so great, you could drive a truck between him and James. Becoming the first South African to win Olympic gold at this distance since the 1920, almost a century of history was wiped away and rewritten in style. A truly extraordinary performance from all podium finishes running sub-44s, the race was a final simply out of this world. As Wayde van Niekerk proved to the world that he is the fastest man at 400m ever.
However, it is a little known fact that, his mother Odessa Swarts was an exceptional track athlete in the late 1980s and early 1990s, while his father Wayne van Niekerk, was a high jumper at high school.
Odessa (then Krause’s) brilliant career started at Ned Doman High School in Athlone, but then completed her schooling at Scottsville High in Kraaifontein, Cape Town. During sports isolation, Odessa set Athlone Stadium on fire with her performances in the 100m and 200m. She blazed to provincial records in both the 100m and 200m on the grass track – against Cape Town’s infamous South Easter.
Following her top-notch performances at the inter-schools and champ of champs meetings, Odessa ran through the Western Province (WP) schools team, clubs and South African (SA) schools and clubs, mercilessly setting records in the 100m and 200m. Only the elements and the record books were her rivals – an absolutely dominant sprinter. By the time Odessa quit athletics, and South Africa entered democracy, she held more than six sprint records spread across high schools and clubs at both provincial and national levels.