Wayde pleases as he strides to semis in his own sweet time
Even the sun appeared to watch Wayde van Niekerk in the 400m heats yesterday morning. And the Olympic and world champion didn't disappoint as he rewarded the appreciative crowd with a late charge to win his heat and qualify easily for tonight's semifinals at the world championships.
Not long afterwards the clouds reclaimed the skies above the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as they've done for much of the past few days, and rained on proceedings for a while.
The English weather may not play ball but, by goodness, the fans are, filling the stadium and delivering a vibe to match that of the 2012 London Olympics, perhaps even surpassing it.
Where else in the world do you see an arena packed out for a morning session like it was yesterday? Or patriotic supporters showering deafening applause, not only on their own athletes but also for foreigners producing top performances?"I think it's the best crowd ever," said Carina Horn, South Africa's only woman sprinter, who finished third in her 100m heat to qualify for tonight's semifinals.
Pieter Conradie was also blown away by the atmosphere despite bombing out in the 400m heat after Van Niekerk's.
"It's unbelievable," he gasped while trying to capture his breath. Van Niekerk led home the slowest heat of the five, the only victor not to break 45seconds. He is also taking a crack at the 200m crown vacated by Usain Bolt and will need to conserve every drop of energy. He races in the 200m heats tomorrow evening, a little more than 27 hours before the 400m final on Tuesday night.
Even without the double on his plate, Van Niekerk is increasingly becoming a slow starter in championship competition - at the Rio Olympics his 400m heat was the second slowest while at the Beijing world championships two years ago he was the second quickest. He took it out so easy yesterday he was even behind Nery Brenes of Costa Rica coming off the final bend, but he simply stepped on the gas and hauled him in in a brief but emphatic exhibition of dominance.
Van Niekerk didn't display the arrogance of American student Fred Kerley, who taunted his competitors by waving at them to catch up on the home straight. Kerley, the world's second-fastest behind Van Niekerk this season, clocked 44.92.