South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk in action in this file photo. Picture: REUTERS
South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk in action in this file photo. Picture: REUTERS

Olympic and double world 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk has decided against competing at September’s World Championships in Doha.

Van Niekerk announced his decision on Monday after undergoing an assessment at the Aspetar sports medicine hospital in Doha.

“I’m still positive and I’m just taking things day by day‚ respecting all the calls made by the doctor and respecting my body‚” said Van Niekerk‚ who underwent surgery on his right knee in late 2017 after suffering an injury playing touch rugby.

He has not raced internationally since the world championships in London‚ having had only a couple of low-key races in Bloemfontein earlier in 2019.

Van Niekerk pulled out of the SA championships in April as a precaution‚ and then withdrew from the London Diamond League in July after a further setback with his knee‚ suffering a bone bruise.

“For me it’s just about listening to my body and taking it from there‚” Van Niekerk said in a statement on Monday.

His 400m victory at the last world championships had ensured him a wild-card entry into the Doha event.

“My main goal is to look after my body and when the opportunity comes‚ I’ll take it. For now I’m not rushing myself or putting pressure on myself. I’m happy with where I am‚” added the athlete‚ who is already back in training.

Van Niekerk’s doctor‚ Louis Holtzhausen‚ was confident the sprint star would be ready in the not too distant future. His main focus is likely to be the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“The medical teams‚ in Bloemfontein and Aspetar‚ did all we could to have him ready for the world championships‚ but it was just not possible. However‚ he has successfully returned to track training and all indications are that he will recover more rapidly from now on.”

Van Niekerk won the 400m at the last two world championships‚ at Beijing 2015 and London 2017. Only US star Michael Johnson‚ whose world record was broken by Van Niekerk at the Rio Olympics in 2016‚ has taken more than two consecutive world 400m crowns‚ claiming four in a row from 1993 to 1999.

With Caster Semenya also set to miss the world championships in Qatar amid her court battle to be allowed to run without taking medication‚ SA’s medal hopes have diminished dramatically. Van Niekerk and Semenya won four of SA’s six medals in London two years ago.

The other two came in the men’s long jump‚ gold from Luvo Manyonga and a bronze from Ruswahl Samaai.

The only other athlete who has shown the form to take a medal in Qatar is sprinter Akani Simbine‚ who ended fifth in the Diamond League 100m final last week. If he cannot do it in his individual race‚ he could still stand a chance in the men’s 4x100m relay.

Other than that‚ the pickings are likely to be lean.

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