Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 143, July 2021 July 2020 - Page 19

Akani Simbine Wayde van Niekerk
medal – yes , the race where he beat Michael Phelps – as well as Cameron van Der Burgh ’ s 100m breaststroke gold , Bridgette Hartley ’ s bronze in the 500m women ’ s K1 Canoe , and the men ’ s Lightweight Coxless Four ’ s rowing gold , won by James Thompson , Sizwe Ndlovu , John Smith and Matthew Brittain . There was also Caster Semenya ’ s silver medal in the 800m ( she was subsequently awarded the Gold after the banning of winner Marina Savinova for doping ), but the men ’ s 800m final remains one of the most memorable highlights of these Games for me . David Rudisha of Kenya was not going to lose that race – it just wasn ’ t going to happen – but he still left us all gobsmacked .
The 15-year-old World Record of 1:41.11 had stood behind the name of Wilson Kipketer since 1997 , but Rudisha smashed that with his 1:40.91 . He led from the front the entire race , passing 400m in 49.28 , then 600m in 1:14.30 , and simply destroyed the field . Behind him , Nijel Amos was doing his own rewriting of the record books , claiming the silver and Botswana ’ s first ever Olympic medal . “ All arms and legs , and Amos will smash the World Junior Record . Rudisha does not look tired , Amos won ’ t catch him , but both are making history here …” That ’ s how I remember calling the final 100m in this unforgettable race .
2016 … Wayde ’ s World
I will always remember the Rio Olympics for a number of reasons . The odd hours ( going on shift at 1pm in broad daylight and leaving in pitch darkness at 4am every day ), Akani Simbine making history to become the first South African to reach a 100m final since readmission ( and the first since 1908 , when Reggie Walker won the gold medal ), Caster Semenya ’ s imperious 800m victory , and Wayde van Niekerk . To be honest , it was all about Wayde ...
He had won the 400m World Championships title in 2015 , he was unbeaten in two years , and was clocking 43 seconds repeatedly . “ You can bet your house on Wayde winning the gold medal ,” was my analysis prior to the Games , and even when he was given lane eight in the final , every pundit , expert , analyst still said the same thing : It was his to lose . But absolutely no-one saw coming what he did in that final , clocking 43.03 to shatter Michael Johnson ’ s 18-year old World Record of 43.18 . “ Come on now , you can break 43 …” That was my closing commentary in the home stretch as Radio 2000 and SAFM both took my commentary live . Even today , every time I rewatch the race , I am still convinced he will break 43 seconds .
Thanks for the Memories
It has been an amazing 37 years of following and covering the greatest sporting spectacle in the world , and I cannot wait to cover this admittedly strange edition of the Olympic Games . How will Team SA fair ? What are the battles to look out for ? Who are the medal contenders ? Turn to my preview article , Let the Games Begin … Finally , here in this same mag .
About the Author
Manfred Seidler is a freelance sport journalist who has been in the industry since 1994 , in both print media and broadcasting , covering four Olympic Games for SABC Radio , and producing various athletics shows for the SABC . Follow him on Twitter : @ sportmansa ; Facebook : Sport Man SA ; Instagram : sportman _ sa .