Van Niekerk's record better than Bolt's?

September 20, 2016
Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer Usain Bolt training with South African Wayde van Niekerk at UWI Bowl earlier this year.
South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk pauses after winning the gold in the men's 400 metres final at the 2016 Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Van Niekerk clocked a world record 43.03 seconds.

Britain's 1999 World Indoor 400 metres champion, Jamie Baulch, thinks that Wayde van Niekerk's world record breaking run is better than the 100 and 200 metre records held by Usain Bolt.

Speaking in the aftermath of the South African's stunning run of 43.03 seconds at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Baulch said he was shocked and surprised by van Niekerk's sensational performance. The 43-year-old Briton, who was in the race when American Michael Johnson set the former 400-metre world record, made his observations recently to Athletics Weekly, the respected British publication.

"I thought that record of Michael's was going to stand even longer," he marvelled. "I personally think it's better than Usain Bolt's 100 and 200 metre records," he gushed.

The IAAF Scoring Tables tell a different story. Used to compare performances in different track and field disciplines, the tables ascribe 1356 and 1351 points to Bolt's 100 and 200m world records of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds, respectively. The South African's new record collects only 1310 points.

Bolt also comes out ahead of the decathlon scoring tables used to make the comparison. If an athlete ran 9.58 seconds for the 100m in the decathlon, he'd earn 1202 points. 43.03 seconds in the decathlon 400 metres would nab 1164 points.

The previous 400m mark was 43.18 seconds by Johnson in the final of the 1999 World Championships. The retired British star, who was seventh in that race, praised van Niekerk, saying, "I think to run 43.03 is just astonishing."

Baulch pinpoints van Niekerk's sprint speed as the key to his success. "Everyone is talking about that he's run sub-10, sub-20, and sub-44", Baulch told Athletics Weekly, but the guy has now almost run sub-43".

"He's got so much of a buffer, just like Michael Johnson had with his 19.32 200 metre PB", he analysed.

Baulch thinks that van Niekerk has affected how his rivals will approach their training for the 2017 season.

"Up until that race, some people believed you could only reach a certain level over the 400m, and he's now just annihilated everyone's mind-set," he said. "All athletes and coaches this winter will be thinking how to beat this guy," he continued. "They've got to get quicker", he concluded, "and just get so much faster."

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