Van Niekerk outshines Bolt with new 300m record

New world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa celebrates after winning the men's 300m competition at the IAAF World challenge Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic, 28 June 2017. EPA/MARTIN DIVISEK

Wayde van Niekerk outshone Usain Bolt as the South African set a new world record for the rarely-run 300m at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Van Niekerk had promised to get "ridiculous" and the sprint star did just that in clocking 30.81 seconds to bring the crowd at the Mestsky Stadium to their feet. Moments after he crossed the finish line -- ahead of Isaac Mokwala of Botswana and fellow South African Clarence Munyai -- the stadium DJ serenaded him with Tina Turner's smash hit 'Simply the Best' (released in 1991 before Van Niekerk's birth) and it sure runs true for a 24-year-old that is arguably the world's standout athlete at present.

In setting the new world mark, Van Niekerk again usurped Michael Johnson whose previous world record of 30.85 seconds was set in 2000 at altitude in Pretoria. The South African's time also shattered the 30.97 meet record -- previously the second fastest time -- set by Jamaican sprint star Bolt in 2010.

"This world record is a blessing. It's a massive confidence booster," Van Niekerk acknowledged, dubbing it an "honour" to twice better a Johnson world record.

Van Niekerk's first professional appearance on the IAAF circuit was over 400m at Ostrava, and it seems he -- just like his good friend Bolt -- is developing a love affair with the northwestern Czech city.

"Thanks to all the people of Ostrava for this wonderful meeting. I'm honoured to be a small part of history.

"I have to rest a little but after that I hope I can continue to make babysteps to be better day by day."

In a way, Van Niekerk's record-breaking efforts couldn't take the shine off the presence of Usain Bolt, making his ninth and final appearance at the Golden Spike meet ahead of his swansong season.

The 30-year-old admitted that he was disappointed with the sluggish 10.06 seconds he ran in the 100m race which closed the evening's action. At one stage it even looked like plucky Cuban sprinter Yunier Perez would deliver the upset of all upsets before Bolt strided clear.

As a thank you for the Jamaican sprint star making Ostrava one of his regular visits, Bolt was treated to an emotional send-off to close the evening's proceedings. It included the crowd loudly chanting his name, settling into a 'TX' and 'UB' either side of a Jamaican flag motif and then a local singer delivering a passionate version of the Jamaican national anthem - which Bolt sang along with.


Meanwhile, there were outstanding performances from Africans throughout the evening.

Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou got proceedings going by bossing her 200m rivals to win in a time of 22.44 seconds - her new season's best. South Africa's Alyssa Conley ran a solid race to finish second.

They were followed on track by the women's 100m hurdles race, in which Rikenette Steenkamp (anther South African) finished strong to make up places and finish second behind Pamela Dutkiewicz of Germany. Steenkamp's 12.99 was also a personal best.

Steenkamp's compatriot, Antonio Alkana, disappointed in the men's 110m hurdles however. Following a solid start the 27-year-old thudded into a hurdle mid-race, lost momentum, and could only come home in 13.37 for fourth place in a race won by Frenchman Garfield Darien.

While these races were on the go, Congo's Franck Elemba was taking part in the men's shot put competition. The 27-year-old African Games champion and Olympic fourth-place finisher is touted as one of the rising stars of the shot put circle but he was short of form on Wednesday evening, with his 19.65m best effort placing him last in the eight-man field.

Be that as it may, Africa dominated the men's 3000m steeplechase race as Conseslus Kipruto's absence took nothing away from an exciting race which saw five men enter the final lap shoulder-to-shoulder.

As it happened, Kenya's Benjamin Kigen kicked clear of the others to take the win in 8:11.54, with Ethiopians Getnet Wale and Hailemariyam Amare claiming second and third ahead of five further Africans.

It wasn't quite the same in the 1000m race despite Nicholas Kipkoech (Kenya) winning it in 2:18.51. The surprise was the ease with which the 24-year-old (and two) Czechs left David Rudisha for dead in final 200m to leave the legendary Kenyan labouring home in fourth. South Africa's Jacob Rozani finished in the pack, down in seventh.

One African (though he runs for Great Britain) who did display his trademark late kick was Mo Farah, who needed it to get the better of Kenya's Mathew Kimeli, one of 11 Africans trying to beat Farah in his final 10 000m at a one-day meeting. While the 27:12.09 Farah won with was slow for him, Kimeli's 27:14.43 was a personal best for him. Timothy Toroitich of Uganda finished a distant third.