Wayde van Niekerk from South Africa set a new record for the 400-meter event at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Finishing the race in 43:03, the 24-year-old sprinter has broken the previous best by Michael Johnson from USA.
As reported by FOX Sports, van Niekerk has been trained by his 74-year-old grandmother, Anna Botha. “She’s an amazing woman,” van Niekerk said. “She’s played a huge role in what I am today.”
Anna Botha has given Wayde van Niekerk a “positive and protective environment”
The two first started working together in 2012. Van Niekerk had just enrolled as a student at the University of the Free State. Botha had been working in the capacity of an athletics coach at the university for 25 years.
DB Prinsloo, who worked with Botha, spoke highly about the coach. As reported by the Daily Mail, Prinsloo said Botha has provided Van Niekerk “a positive and protective environment to train in.”
In 2014, van Niekerk bagged a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. He is also credited for being the fastest sprinter to win the 100 meters event in less than 10 seconds, 200 meters event in less than 20 seconds and 400 meters event in less than 44 seconds. He was the fourth fastest in last year’s Beijing World Championships, beating Johnson’s record by three hundredths of a second.
Anna Botha on retiring: “My passion is too high to even think about that”
“She’s really kept me very disciplined and very focused on the goal and where I need to be,” van Niekerk said. “I’m really grateful I can go on the track and say my coach has pushed me to reach every level and believe anything is possible.”
Botha first started coaching in the 1960s. While at the time she only trained her children, she started being sought by other athletes.
She said she is not considering retiring yet. “I’m very blessed because I don’t have any health problems, and it is because I’m busy with young people – and you have to be high up there with them,” she said. “My passion is too high to even think about that.”