Meet the Great-Grandma Who Trains South Africa's Fastest Man

They call the 74-year-old coach 'Aunt Ans'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2016 11:44 AM CDT
Wayde Van Niekerk, left, and Ans Botha.   (Twitter)

(Newser) – South African sprinter Wayde Van Niekerk set a world record Sunday night in the men's 400-meter race, an Olympic feat that the Washington Post says "no one saw coming"—except, perhaps, for the 74-year-old Namibian great-grandmother who trains him. Van Niekerk first caught the eye of Ans Botha, who's been a track and field coach for half a century, at 2010's IAAF World Junior Championships, and she started coaching him two years later, Quartz notes. He's managed to get four seconds faster in the 400-meter competition since she took over his training regimen.

His success may be due to the no-nonsense approach taken by Botha, known as "Tannie Ans" ("Aunt Ans" in Afrikaans) in the running world. "When I first met her, I was afraid of her," fellow South African runner Akani Simbine tells the Post, saying she becomes "loving" once you get to know her. "When the track workouts need to be done, she makes sure you get them done." Van Niekerk credits the silver-haired septuagenarian for how far he's come, saying after his big win that "she's played a huge role in what I am today," per Fox Sports. "She's really kept me very disciplined and very focused on the goal." (Read more 2016 Olympics stories.)

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