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Olympic 400m champion Van Niekerk inspired by Bolt

Xinhua, August 15, 2016 Adjust font size:

South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk revealed that words of support from Usain Bolt helped drive him to break the world record in the 400m final at the Rio Olympics on Sunday.

The 24-year-old claimed the gold medal by clocking 43.03 seconds, beating the previous record held by American Michael Johnson by 15 hundredths of a second.

Grenada's Kirani James grabbed silver in 43.76 seconds with the USA's Lashawn Merritt taking bronze in 43.85.

Van Niekerk said he had spent time with seven-time Olympic gold-medallist Bolt in Jamaica earlier this year.

"I was over there for about two weeks training," Van Niekerk said. "He's been such a huge rock, inspiring me as an athlete. He told me back in Jamaica that 'you will break the world record'. And he came to me tonight and said 'I told you you can do it'."

Johnson's mark had been one of the longest standing records in athletics, having stood since August 1999.

Van Niekerk became the second Olympic champion from South Africa in the men's 400m after Bevill Rudd, who achieved the feat in 1920.

He admitted he was unsure what to think late in the race when his rivals were nowhere in sight.

"Yeah, I thought someone was going to catch me, because I felt very alone and I was like 'what's going on, what's going on?'," he said.

"It gave me so much motivation to keep on pushing, keep on pushing, and as I got to the finish line I just dove for the finish line."

Van Niekerk said he prepared for the race on Sunday by watching his favorite football team, Liverpool, defeat Arsenal 4-3 in the English Premier League.

"Yes, I watched the Liverpool match before," he said. "I was losing my mind because it was quite a tight match. I was so excited that we got the win over Arsenal. And my brother's an Arsenal fan. Now I've got the world record and Liverpool beat Arsenal. I've got a lot to brag about tonight." Endit