'God is power' for S. African athlete Van Niekerk who smashed Michael Johnson's record

(Screen grab from SuperSport.)South African Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk celebrates after smashing Michael Johnson's 400 meter sprint record at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 14, 2016.

Wayde van Niekerk who has smashed Michael Johnson's 400 meters record at the Olympics repeatedly thanked God in the post-race press conference after claiming a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.

South African Van Niekerk left his rivals in his wake finishing with a time of 43.03 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson's 17-year-old record to win a sensational Olympic final in Rio on the night of Aug. 14.

Johnson watched in amazement as Van Niekerk lowered his record of 43.19 seconds to a staggering 43.03 seconds, from lane eight, running most of the race blind to the other runners in the race.

Van Niekerk appearied in his first Olympics and is the first South African to win gold in the event in 96 years, Runners' World reports.

The 24-year-old is trained by a great-grandmother, Ans Botha, with their unique partnership delivering incredible results over the past 18 months, Fox News reports.

"She's an amazing woman. She has played a huge role in who I am today and kept me very disciplined and very focused on the role and who I need to be. I'm very grateful my coach has pushed me to the limit. Anything is possible. I'm just grateful I can trust in her work."

Botha is a 74-year-old Namibian who has been coaching since 1968.

One of her earliest star pupils was Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks, who she coached at high school before he went on to study at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Fredericks made history when he won the gold medal in both the 100 meter sprint and the 200 meters in the 1992 Barcelona Games and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Botha has mentored Van Niekerk since October 2012 and runs his track program at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein.


The new 400m Olympic champion and world record holder celebrated his gold medal with the words "Jesus did it."

(Photo from Supersport)

"I am really just blessed and thankful to the Lord for this opportunity," The Daily Mail reported.

After the race he tweeted his thanks with the words "God is power," Christian Today reported.

Both his parents were athletes in the era when South Africa faced a global sports boycott for its racist apartheid policy of white domination and racism.

His mother Odessa Swarts was an exceptional track athlete in the late 1980s and early 1990s and his father, Wayne van Niekerk, was a high jumper at high school, News24 reported.

When an athlete smashes the world record, in these days of doping scandals in sport, questions are often asked about the training regimen of runners.

(Photo from SuperSport - by Peter Kenny.)South African athlete Wayde van Niekerk crosses the finish line after smashing Michael Johnson's 400 meter sprint record at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 14, 2016.

A reporter asked Van Niekerk whether people can trust his record. "You can't be anyone's favorite. What I can do is control the controllables, and stay as disciplined as I can be, and focused on goals and life.

Another reporter said he had not answered the question, The Guardian reported. He asked him what he said to people who said he is on drugs.

"I know I am not," Van Niekerk replied.

"The beginning of the year I had the opportunity to break the sub-10, as I believe the talent God has blessed me," said the 24-year-old athlete from Cape Town.

Before the race he told Runners' World, "I always want more but it's no use me going on my knees every race and saying 'God take over and control my race.'

"I'll be happy with whatever comes my way - I'm so grateful. This is a new competition but I'll put my best foot forward. We don't know what time will win, but I hope the time I run is the winning time."

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