South Africa’s Van Niekerk shatters 400 WR; Merritt takes bronze

wayde van niekerk

Getting placed in lane 8 for a major track and field race generally means that you’ll at best struggle to win a medal.

In the case of South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk, running out of lane 8 for the final of the men’s 400 did nothing to keep him from either taking gold or shattering Michael Johnson’s world and Olympic records.

WATCH: Wayde Van Niekerk breaks record in men’s 400

Van Niekerk looked comfortable throughout the race, winning in an astonishing time of 43.03 seconds, breaking the Olympic record (43.49) by more than four tenths of a second and the world record (43.18) by 15 one-hundredths of a second. Taking silver was Greneda’s Kirani James, who took gold in the 400 four years ago, with American LaShawn Merritt taking bronze.

Both James (43.76 seconds) and Merritt (43.85) established new season bests in the 400, but neither had what it took to keep up with Van Niekerk. Running from lanes six and five, respectively, James and Merritt appeared to be headed towards a duel for goal as they rounded the final turn. But on the outside Van Niekerk maintained his pace, pulling away down the final straightaway and seemingly easing up through the finish line.

That’s how comfortable Van Niekerk was Sunday night, and as a result he is South Africa’s first Olympic champion in the 400 and a world record holder as well.

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen

Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

Sifan Hassan

Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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