The Best All-Round Sprinter Ever

This blog might occasionally seem like a fan site of Wayde van Niekerk, but—as an athletics enthusiast—I simply can’t help but marvel at his amazing talent and achievements.

For a while now I’ve been meaning to write a short piece about him being the first sprinter in history to not only run sub-10 seconds in the 100m, sub-20 in the 200m and sub-44 in the 400m, but also about him being the only one to do it in a single season.

And as I was reminiscing about the 2017 season, I realized something that didn’t quite sink in until now: he broke through the aforementioned barriers in less than a month. 27 days to be exact. And to top it off, he also managed to squeeze in a world record in the rarely-run 300m event.

Let’s take a look at that schedule:

10 June 2017

Place: Kingston, Jamaica
Discipline: 200m
Performance: 19.84 (wind +1.2 m/s) PB

20 June 2017

Place: Velenje, Slovenia
Discipline: 100m
Performance: 9.94 (wind +0.9 m/s) PB

28 June 2017

Place: Ostrava, Czech Republic
Discipline: 300m
Performance: 30.81 PB, WB*

6 July 2017

Place: Lausanne, Switzerland
Discipline: 400m
Performance: 43.62 SB

Just let those times sink in:

100m: 9.94
200m: 19.84
300m: 30.81
400m: 43.62

All within just 27 days!

It might be the single most impressive month of sprinting for a single athlete in sport’s history. I have no doubt that a couple of other sprinters of the past—Michael Johnson immediately comes to mind—had a similar potential, but the difference between having the potential to do something and actually doing it is huge.

A specialist in any of these three disciplines (with 300m excluded) with any one of these times to their name would have been a medal contender at every championship event.

To put it in perspective: a very tiny percentage of actual single-distance specialists ever even achieves any of those times in their respective disciplines.

So I believe that the title of this blog is quite appropriate and can be given to Wayde van Niekerk. And with his reservations about running all of the sprint disciplines in a single year again, it might well be the case that those 27 days might never be repeated. There are certainly no indications that anyone of the current crop of top athletes could do it even in a whole season.

*He broke Michael Johnson’s (officially called ‘world best’) time of 30.85 from 2000 and in doing so became only the third person to have run under 31 seconds. The previous man to have done it was Usain Bolt with 30.97 on the same track (albeit in rainy conditions) in Ostrava in 2010. 

Žiga P. Škraba

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