Wayde van Niekerk wins spectacular 400m final, Kirani James takes bronze

South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk became the fourth fastest man in history as he emerged victorious from a gripping 400 metres at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

Van Niekerk amassed an early lead before fending off LaShawn Merritt and Olympic gold medallist Kirani James to win in 43.48 seconds.

400m Final – Eurosport
All three men dipped below the 44-second barrier, with Merritt setting a new lifetime best of 43.65s to take silver ahead of James (43.78s).

Van Niekerk was carted off on a stretcher after the race, unable to complete a lap of honour.

However, South African team leader, Peter Lourens later said it was exhaustion.

“It’s exhaustion. They are taking him to hospital for observation.”

Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa is taken away by the medical team
Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa is taken away by the medical team – Reuters

It marked an astonishing rise for the 23-year-old, whose previous best result was a silver medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The pre-race attention focused on James’ bid to recapture his world crown, but he was unable to claw back the deficit in the home straight as he was forced to settle for third.

Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa falls to the ground after winning the men's 400 metres
Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa falls to the ground after winning the men’s 400 metres – Reuters