As astounding a run as it is in the 2016 Olympic 400m men’s final, Wayde van Niekerk leaves even greater speed untapped. How’s that? Notice that in these video stills he doesn’t begin falling until about 13° past the vertical! He ultimately reaches about 30° of Fall which clearly is sufficient for setting a World Record of 43.03″, but what if he begins falling at 0°? Like previous WR holder, Michael Johnson, and his mentor Usain Bolt.
By the way, there is a reason for this, and it can be seen in this video still. By leaving the previous support behind (his right foot, in this case) after his bodyweight passes over it, van Niekerk is forced to coast past the ideal midpoint of the running stride stride— the Vertical Moment— before he’s able to start falling again.
Not Harder, Smarter!
Wayde van Niekerk has the talent— that is, exceptional neural, metabolic and psychological capacity— to continue developing as a runner, and it’s inspiring to anticipate his realizing even grander achievements in the coming years. I suspect more records will be set as he further refines his skills, maybe harnessing those unused 13°. And why wouldn’t he? Since it’s said that we’re either striving to move forward or allowing ourselves to drop behind, and, since van Niekerk set a new WR from lane 8, effectively racing against himself, it’s really a foregone conclusion. That’s what he does. You see, genetic potential is quickly reached— we compete against our physiological peers— but skill can always be improved. Greatly, in fact, and at any age. And, while not the only factor in racing, skill is a primary factor. While no one needs to work harder per se to acquire new / refine current skills, they must work smarter. That begins with knowing precisely what to train.
You can learn more about how you can apply the skills of Pose, Fall, Pull to your own running success, right now. Start here: Correct Running Form.