Wayde van Niekerk thanks South Africans for their support

Van Niekerk stunned the crowd at the Olympic Stadium, winning gold in the 400m in a world record time.

South Africa's 400m Olympic gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk points to his new world record displayed on a board after the Men's 400m Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. Picture: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO - South Africa's newest running sensation Wayde van Niekerk has thank all South Africans for the wonderful support he's received whilst in 2016 Rio Olympics Games.

Van Niekerk stunned the crowd at the Olympic Village early this morning, winning gold with a world record time of 43.3 seconds.

He broke American legend Michael Johnson's 17-year-old record.

Van Niekerk says he's grateful for all the support.

"I had no pressure, that's how amazing each and every one was in South Africa in supporting me. I'd go into any social media, they will say Wayde and gold. I mean my whole country helped me believe in myself and I'm so grateful to each and every one that supported me."

Van Niekerk says having his family with him in Rio has made his Olympic success even more special.

He says his family's presence at the games made all the difference.

"Just having my whole family here meant the world to me tonight. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and that they were here live to witness it today."

The 24-year-old's mother, Odessa Swarts, says she's overwhelmed.

"Well at this moment my heart is still pounding, it's still very unreal. I feels like I'm in still asleep and very soon and when I wake up, I'm going to try to recover from what's happening around me."

Running in lane eight, the 24-year-old world champion got off to a flier and was streaking clear on the back straight but he upped his pace even further in the second half of the race to better American Michael Johnson's 1999 mark of 43.18 seconds.

Van Niekerk looked as stunned as the crowd as he produced the greatest run of all time in the 400m to win gold in Rio.

Out in lane eight he led from start to finish blowing away his main competitors Kirani James and Lashawn Merritt who were hapless bystanders in his wake.

He first found his family in the crowd and embraces before doing a slow circuit of the adoring crowd draped in the South African flag.

The 100m final after that was almost an afterthought as Usain Bolt won his third consecutive title in 9.81 seconds and an excellent run from Akani Simbine who finished fifth.

Johnson, who won back-to-back Olympic titles in the event in 1996 and 2000, was dumbfounded by the quality of Van Niekerk's finish.

"Oh my God! From lane eight, a world record," Johnson said on the BBC. "He took it out so quick. I have never seen anything from 200 to 400 like that."