Anna Botha, a name that not many in the sporting World had heard of before Rio 2016, made a name for herself on the night of August 14th, in the Olympic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro.
Wade Van Niekerk, a 24 year old sprinter from South Africa broke the 17 year old World Record in the 400m (set by legendary US athlete Michael Johnson in 1999) to become the Olympic Champion. That Olympic Champion, is coached by Anna Botha.
Van Niekerk, running in lane eight, went out hard, knowing that the past two Olympic champions – Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt – were on his inside. Merritt appeared to be closing on Van Niekerk coming into the home straight, but the world champion was able to respond and maintained his form down to the line, stopping the clock at 43.03.
Van Niekerk’s time took 0.15 off the record Johnson set at the 1999 IAAF World Championships in Seville. In a race of unprecedented depth, the top seven men all finished within 44.50 and all finalists ran faster than 44.70.
Watching from the stands was Van Niekerk’s coach, Anna. The 74-year-old great-grandmother who coached the track team at Kovsies, a South African school where Van Niekerk was taking classes. Anna and Wade two have formed a close bond as Botha has overseen his rise, including a win in the 400 at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.
As soon as Wade crossed the line, the FCN social media account erupted with praise and admiration for Anna …
For the female coach fraternity, this has to be one of the biggest steps forward for women who coach. Whilst the numbers of female coaches at the Rio Olympics have been incredibly low, those that have been involved have stood out to be the some of the Worlds greatest coaches and create Olympic History. From Mel Marshall’s GB Swimmer Adam Peaty winning 100m breast stroke Gold with a WR, to Martha Károlyi, the Hungarian born coach to the dominant US Women’s Gymnastics team, female coaches have certainly had their marks on the XXXI Olympiad…and we still have one more week to go!