His time improved the previous meeting record of 43,66 set by Michael Johnson 21 years ago. It was also an IAAF Diamond League record.
The 24-year-old broke the world record in the 2016 Olympic final in Rio.
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IOL reports that a month away from the IAAF World Championships in London, Van Niekerk boasts the world’s leading times of the season in both the 200m and the 400m, after improving Johnson’s meet record by 0,04.
Diamond League reports that Van Niekerk had claimed at a press conference prior to the race that he wouldn’t be disappointed if he didn’t run under 44 seconds.
He told the website after the race that he didn’t have a specific time in mind before the race, but was pleased with the result. “I have a love-hate relationship with the 400m. However, I try to always approach it with a positive mindset, not setting myself any limits, and the performances keep coming, which keeps me passionate.”
It was his first race in Europe this year and his first 400m. “I will have one more competition before London. There, I want to put on a show and aim for a great time,” he added.
Van Niekerk said finishing a 400m was always painful, but, this time around, he was pleasantly surprised. “I need that passion to constantly seek improvements,” he said.
The South African 400m world record-holder has shown improvements in almost every distance he takes on, racing to new personal bests in the 100m, 200m and 300m this season.
Botswana’s Baboloki Thebe, who posted a personal best of 44,02, and Isaac Makwala, 0,06 further back, finished behind Van Niekerk.
— Wayde van Niekerk (@WaydeDreamer) July 7, 2017
-Additional reporting by IOL and Diamond League