#London2017 – The Story of Ans Botha – the World Record Breaking Coach
Ans Botha is the woman behind the fastest 400m runner of all time – Wayde Van Niekerk.
Ans and Wayde have been working together since 2012; two years after van Niekerk caught her attention when he finished fourth in the 200m final of the 2010 IAAF World Junior Champtionships in Canada.
Originally from Namibia, Ans, a former athlete herself who competed in the sprints and long jump, began coaching her own son in the 1960s. Almost 50 years of coaching later, she has been Head Track and Field Coach at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein since 1990, and now coach to one of histories greatest ever athletes.
Despite her huge experience in coaching, worry over the responsibility of training a world-class talent accompanied the excitement she felt, Botha said.
“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.
I’m very blessed because I don’t have any health problems, and it is because I’m busy with young people – and you have to be high up there with them. My passion is too high to even think about that.”
Rio Olympic Games 2016
In 2013, van Niekerk started focusing on 400m at Ans’ advice to improve his endurance and aid recovery for persistent hamstring injuries. This advice paid off, as now van Niekerk is celebrated as possibly the greatest 400m runner in history after he stormed to Gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with the World Record Breaking time of 43.03
After winning Gold, it took Ans over an hour to see Wayde because Security refused to believe she was his coach. It took members of Team South Africa to get involved and ensure security that she was the woman behind his success!
“We really tried really hard to get on the track. At every entrance there was security and they just wouldn’t let me go through.”
When she finally managed to see him she was asked what they had said:
“We just hugged each other. It wasn’t necessary to say anything. We knew in our hearts and in our minds what we thought and what we had achieved.”
Ans observes other athletes and tries to implement techniques in her own coaching that she thinks will work on her athletes. She believes it is important for them to enjoy training and ensure that injury prevention is the number one aim, “if the body says stop, we stop, or go a little softer”.
‘If I see something that will work on my athletes, I will try it and implement it. That’s how I always try to bring something new in our training.
‘They say you’re never too old to learn, especially in athletics,’
Preparing for London 2017