Last week a few friends and I headed to the Olympic Stadium here in London for a session of the 2017 IAAF World Championships. Organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations and held every two years, it is the sport’s second most prestigious event after the Olympics.
We applied for tickets in the ballot almost a year ago and were incredibly lucky to see a wonderful evening of track and field that included the Women’s Discuss final, the Men’s Pole Vault final and three premier track events – the Men’s 3,000m Steeplechase, 800m and 400m.
The highlight, and reason we had applied for tickets to this session, was of course the 400m and the chance to see our very own Wayde Van Niekerk, the reigning World and Olympic Champion.
Wayde won his first World Champs gold in Beijing in 2015 and in Rio last year, he become the first South African to win 400m Olympic gold in 96 years! He was also the first ever to win it running blind in the outside lane 8. What was even more remarkable is that he ran a World Record 43.03, beating the great Michael Johnson’s time of 43.18 set 17 years ago in 1999.
(Last year, Wayde also became the first, and to date only, athlete to run the 100m in under 10s, the 200m in under 20s and the 400m in under 44s – wow!!)
So with excitement and anticipation sky-high, Wayde duly delivered in what turned into a rather lopsided race with Wayde’s closest competition, Isaaac Makwala from Botswana, barred from running having been quarantined for a gasto bug. Wade was always in command, winning by close on 50m in a time of 43.98s, to claim his 2nd World Champs gold.
And I had finally tasted global success watching South African sport!
I’ve been fortunate to attend and support South Africans at sporting events around the globe; from the Proteas and the Springboks at multiple World Cups to the South African men’s hockey team battling for 11th place vs India at the London Olympics in 2012, and while I’ve enjoyed some incredible experiences my ‘global success’ record is pretty dire unfortunately.
I’ve never seen the Proteas win a World-Cup knock-out game, granted we’ve only ever won one, and only seen the Boks win one knock-out game against Wales in the 2015 World Cup. I was, however, at Lord’s in 2012 when the Proteas won the series away to England and went to #1 in the World. That has now changed and I’ve seen a Saffa win a global event!