South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk closed the Continental Cup in perfect style for the hosts this evening when he anchored Africa home in first place in the men’s 4x400m, bringing the small but rowdy Grande Stade crowd to their feet as he held off the challenge of Europe’s Martyn Rooney.
Van Niekerk stopped the clock at 3:00.02, Africa’s quickest time at a Continental Cup, with Rooney was just eight hundredths behind in second place, confirming Europe as the 2014 Continental Cup champions.
With the former Olympic and two-time world champion LaShawn Merritt in their line-up, plus Olympic silver medallist Leguelin Santos and relay specialist Chris Brown of The Bahamas, this was meant to be an assured win for Americas.
But veteran sprinter Kim Collins was drafted in as a late replacement for US champion Gil Roberts and the former world 100m champion proved to be the weak link in the Americas chain as, despite Merritt’s best efforts on the last leg, they finished a distant third in 3:02.78.
Culson had given the Americans a marginal lead at the first change with Britain’s Conrad Williams just behind him. Brown kept Poland’s Jakub Krzewina at bay but had to relinquish the lead to Isaac Makwala, the Botswanan running a storming leg in his third event of the weekend to hand over in first place for Africa.
Collins set off in pursuit of Saviour Kambo on the third leg but faded badly in the closing stages as Israel’s European silver medallist Donald Sanford came past to put Rooney in touching distance of van Niekerk.
Rooney is a seasoned relay runner who carried Britain to victory at the European Championships last month, and he looked certain to win again when he attacked down the home straight.
But van Niekerk was having none of it. Spurred on by the excited crowd, he gritted his teeth to bring Africa home for only their second ever win at this event, the first coming way back in 1992.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF