Wayde van Niekerk sets world-leading 400-meter time of 43.62

Olympic 400-meter champion Wayde van Niekerk ran a world-leading time of 43.62 seconds on Thursday in his first major race at his favoured distance since the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Van Niekerk chose the Athletissima meeting in the Diamond League series for his first 400 race outside his native South Africa this year, and his first anywhere since April.

On a warm, still evening in Lausanne, the 24-year-old Van Niekerk added the 400 to the world-leading times he also holds in the 200 and 300.

“I didn’t come with a specific time in mind, but I am pleased with this result,” said Van Niekerk, who is favoured to retain his world title in London next month.

Van Niekerk was 0.07 faster than the previous best 400 this season set by Fred Kerley of the United States. He set a world record of 43.03 in taking Olympic gold last August.

Four other world-leading performances were set, and the 30-year-old world record in women’s high jump was threatened by world champion Maria Lasitskene.

Lasitskene cleared a season-best 2.06 metres before taking aim at the 2.09 set in 1987 by Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria.

The Pontaise stadium fell silent for Lasitskene’s third and final attempt but the bar was sent crashing by the Russian. She competes as a neutral athlete while her country is suspended from competition due to extensive doping.

Van Niekerk has sparkled this season despite skipping his main event since some low-key home meetings.

The South African star set a world best of 30.81 in the seldom-raced 300 last week. He took Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old mark by 0.04 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Van Niekerk also has a world-leading 200 time of 19.84, set in Jamaica last month, and a 9.94 in the 100 that has him seventh in the world list this season.

Justin Gatlin, the former Olympic 100 champion, has a best 0.01 slower than Van Niekerk this season, and he was unable to beat it Thursday as he ran into a slight headwind. The 35-year-old American clocked 9.96 to edge Ben Youssef Meite of Ivory Coast by 0.02.

Olympic javelin champion Sara Kolak set a world-leading mark and national record at 68.43 metres with her final throw.

“People in Croatia have high expectations and I want to live up to that,” Kolak said.

Two Ethopian runners also set world-leading times: Genzebe Dibaba’s 4 minutes 16.05 seconds in the women’s mile, and Muktar Edris with 12:55.23 in the men’s 5,000. The first three finishers all were faster than Olympic champion Mo Farah’s previous world-leading time set in Eugene, Oregon, in May.

World champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands won the 200 in 22.10 for her fastest time of the season.

Olympic 800 silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi was just outside Caster Semenya’s world-leading time to win in 1:56.82. Runner-up Charlene Lipsey of the U.S. ran a career-best 1:57.38.

Other winners Thursday were: American Sam Kendricks, clearing 5.93 in a fiercely contested pole vault; Olympic champion Ryan Crouser of the United States in the shot put; and Aman Wote of Ethiopia in the men’s 1,500.

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