Sat. Jan 16th, 2021

Sodden track delays Wayde van Niekerk’s return

Wayde van Niekerk Caster SemenyaWet weather in Germiston has stalled the proposed comeback of 400m king Wayde van Niekerk who withdrew from the South African athletics championship.

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Wayde van Niekerk had been set to make his return to competitive athletics at the South African athletics championships on Thursday but withdrew fearing the wet track might increase his risk of immediately suffering another injury.

The 400m heats took place on Thursday afternoon at the Germiston Athletics Stadium without the Olympic gold medallist and world record holder.

“Sad to announce my withdrawal from the @AthleticsSA_ Senior Champs. Was looking forward to competing again on home soil after a good build-up but the weather isn’t playing along so we don’t want to take any chances. I look forward to representing SA on the international circuit,” Van Niekerk posted on his official Twitter account.

Van Niekerk has been out of action after sustaining knee ligament damage in a freak accident while playing a game of celebrity tag rugby at Newlands last year.

He is now likely to make his return to competitive athletics in the European legs of the IAAF Diamond League.

The first Diamond League meeting of the season gets underway on 30 May in Stockholm, Sweden. The 2019 athletics season will culminate at the World Championships in Doha which is scheduled for September.  

Van Niekerk could become the first man to win the 400m gold at three consecutive world championships since Michael Johnson dominated the event in the 1990s.

The 26-year-old is the reigning world and Olympic champion over 400m and also claimed silver over 200m at the 2017 World Championships in London.

South Africa earned three gold medals in London two years ago with Van Niekerk’s effort matched by Caster Semenya in the Women’s 800m and Luvo Manyonga in the men’s long jump.

Semenya earned a bronze competing in the somewhat unfamiliar 1500m while Ruswahl Samaai’s long jump bronze rounded out South Africa’s 2017 medal haul.

Akani Simbine finished fifth in the men’s 100m final and 20km racewalker Lebogang Shange came agonizingly close to medalling, finishing the race 14 seconds behind Brazilian bronze medalist Caio Bonfim.

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