South African sprinter Niekerk is coached by 74-year-old great grandmother

South African sprinter Wayde Van Niekerk ran the fastest 400-metre race in history at the Rio Olympics on Sunday (Aug. 14), breaking a 17-year-old world record and winning his country’s first 2016 gold medal. Niekerk completed the single lap in 43:03 seconds, beating the previous record set Michael Johnson by 0.15 seconds.

 Fans in Rio cheered, especially one: his coach Ans Botha, better known as “Tannie Ans,” a 74-year-old great grandmother of four who has been a track-and-field coach since the 1960s.

“She’s an amazing woman,” he told reporters after the win. “I’m grateful I could trust in her work, and I think it speaks for itself. What she’s achieved as a coach—I’m just thankful to be part of the history she’s made.”


 Botha first noticed Van Niekerk in 2010 at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Canada, where the young runner finished fourth. Two years later she began coaching Van Niekerk, a marketing student at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein, where Botha was the head athletics coach. Under her tutelage, the sprinter has shaved four seconds off his personal best in the 400-meter race. (Quartz Africa)

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