They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Well, behind 400m world record-breaker Wayde van Niekerk is a great-grandmother.
The South African, who won gold in stunning fashion in Rio by breaking Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old record, is trained by Ans Botha, a 74-year-old great grandmother who coaches at the University of the Free State.
Just when we thought the #VanNiekerk story couldn't get any better: his coach, Ans Botha, 74 yrs young! pic.twitter.com/Lab1vqyHNa
— Gabrielle Amado (@gabbyamado) August 15, 2016
She told City Press last year: “I’m very blessed because I donât have any health problems, and it is because I’m busy with young people â and you have to be high up there with them.”
She’s known as ‘Tannie Ans’ – Tannie meaning ‘auntie’ in Afrikaans – by those who work with her and apparently has a no-nonsense approach.
It certainly seems to be working – 23-year-old Van Niekerk stunned the world with a time of 43.03 seconds in Rio.
Well done, Coach! #Rio2016 pic.twitter.com/Vp7JEOlaWp
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 15, 2016
Having never coached an athlete who has reached the highest level of the sport before, the experience is new for Botha – who herself was a sprinter and long jumper when she was younger.
She told City Press: “I wouldn’t say I’m afraid… But I have such a big responsibility to get this athlete to develop to his full potential. Also, I need to try to do my very best not to do something wrong that might break him.â
Pretty sure we can say she’s succeeded.