Rio 2016: Wayde Van Niekerk breaks Michael Johnson's world record on way to 400m title

Wayde Van Niekerk produced the race of his life to win the 400metre title in a new world record time of 43.03

Rio 2016: Wayde Van Niekerk breaks Michael Johnson's world record on way to 400m title
Wayde Van Niekerk wins the 400m in a world record time (image via: espn.com)

In a stunning piece of running, South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk won the 400m Olympic title in a time of 43.03 seconds to smash Michael Johnson's long-standing record. 

The race was billed as a three-horse race between the South African, Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt, but from lane eight Van Niekerk destroyed the field in an incredible time.

As the first man to run a sub-10 100metres, sub-20 200metres and sub-44 400metres, Van Niekerk is already as a star of athletics, but this run will push him to new heights on a memorable night of Olympic track and field.

Hudson-Smith swamped as big three set the pace

Following three fascinating semi-finals on Saturday evening, Merritt and James were drawn alongside eachother in lanes five and six, with Van Niekerk on the outside in lane eight.

Britain's Matthew Hudson-Smith was the unlucky man to be stuck in the middle of the action in lane seven, and the young Midlander was soon overwhelmed by the three favourites who each attacked from the outset.

At the half-way point James and Merritt were neck-and-neck while on the outside Van Niekerk continued to build his lead as the likes of Bralon Taplin and Machel Cedenio in the inside lanes continued to fall back. 

Van Niekerk maintains form to smash 17-year-old world record

Hitting the home straight, Van Niekerk had a healthy lead and instead of struggling over the last 100, he continued to pull away and it became a race between himself and the clock. 

As he surged for the line, the World Record time was revealed, and the crowd went into uproar as a new sporting superstar was born. 

Wayde Van Niekerk checks the clock after his 400m win (image via: mirrorsport)

Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt continued their scrap for second, and it was Grenada's 2012 champion James who came out on top in a time of 43.76 to take silver, with the American claiming bronze in 43.85.

This race was all about Van Niekerk though, and following on Almaz Ayana's stunning run on Friday in the 10,000, the Rio track has produced some historic times which many hope will continue for the remainder of the meet. 

Allyson Felix impresses en route to 400 final

In the women's 400m semi-finals, Allyson Felix was the fastest qualifier in a time of 49.67 as all of the favourites qualified for Monday's final. 

Shericka Jackson of Jamaica ran a personal best to qualify second fastest, with American duo Natasha Hastings and Phyllis Francis as well as Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas also making it through.

Shaunae Miller in action in Rio (image via: google)

In the women's 1,5000, Kenya's Faith Kipyegon and Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia won the their semi-finals to qualify for Tuesday's final, with Great Britain's Laura Weightman and Laura Muir also making it through with impressive runs.