Reuters

Wayde van Niekerk collapses after winning gold, taken to hospital

Wayde van Niekerk collapses after winning gold, taken to hospital

26/08/2015 at 16:23Updated 26/08/2015 at 18:41

Wayde van Niekerk ran the sixth fastest 400 metres of all time to beat a stellar field and become the first South African to win a world championship sprint title on Wednesday - but his efforts took their toll.

The 23-year-old went hard from the start and held off reigning champion La Shawn Merritt of the United States down the home straight to claim the title in 43.48 seconds.

However, the South African then collapsed on the track exhausted and was taken straight off to hospital for medical treatment, with his "vital signs unstable", the IAAF's medical delegate said, leaving runner-up LaShawn Merritt to hail the quality of the race.

Van Niekerk was discharged just before midnight local time (1600 GMT).

Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa fades after winning the men's 400m final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China August 26, 2015

Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa fades after winning the men's 400m final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China August 26, 2015Reuters

Second-place Merritt pretty aptly summed up the demands of the 400m after the race.

"It's crazy. We're warriors. We're animals. The 400 is never easy. We'll rise to the occasion. I love this. I love this sport," he said.

LaShawn Merritt of the U.S. looks at the scoreboard after finishing second in the men's 400 metres final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China August 26, 2015

LaShawn Merritt of the U.S. looks at the scoreboard after finishing second in the men's 400 metres final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China August 26, 2015Reuters

With the personal best of 19.94 he ran in the 200 metres earlier this year, he joined Michael Johnson, Merritt and Isaac Makwala as the only athletes to have gone under 20 seconds in the 200 and 44 seconds in the 400.

Only Johnson, who set the world record of 43.18 in 1999, and fellow Americans Butch Reynolds and Jeremy Wariner have gone faster over one lap.

Michael Johnson of the U.S. holds a banner with his 400 meters new world record time at the 7th IAAF world championships in athletics in Seville August 26. Johnson won the gold with a time of 43.18 seconds.

Michael Johnson of the U.S. holds a banner with his 400 meters new world record time at the 7th IAAF world championships in athletics in Seville August 26. Johnson won the gold with a time of 43.18 seconds.Reuters

With additional reporting from Reuters

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