Wayde van Niekerk guns for a rare double
Van Niekerk upbeat on winning the 200m title at the athletics world championship
London — Wayde van Niekerk retained his 400m world crown in London on Tuesday night and then said he believed he could add the 200m title to bag a rare world championship double.
"It’s easier said than done‚" Van Niekerk said of his prospects for joining US legend Michael Johnson as the only athletes to have landed the 400m and 200m at the international showpiece.
"This competition is very unpredictable‚ but I know I’ve got the abilities‚" he said. "My body still feels good. The recovery process after tonight was a bit difficult‚ it took me a while to recover… recovery tonight is very‚ very important for tomorrow’s semifinal because it’s going to go straight from endurance to speed tomorrow."
Van Niekerk — who slowed dramatically late in the 400m final to save energy for the 200m — gushed about the shorter race.
"Now that the 400 is gone‚ I love the 200‚ I love it so much‚" said Van Niekerk‚ who ran the 200m heats on Monday night.
"I got over the finish line with a smile. I could go through the mixed zone, interacting with the media… and I even had a nice jog back to the warm-up area‚ so I’m very excited.
"I just hope I can get some good rest tonight and the body still feels good tomorrow‚" he said. "The 400m was comfortable‚ but obviously, we all know the pain that comes with it once we cross the finish line. I’m very excited for the 200m. The body just needs to be ready and I’ll give it my best shot."
He said the cold conditions had affected his 400m at London Stadium‚ where he won in 43.98sec‚ comfortably ahead of Steve Gardiner of Bahamas (44.41) and Abdalelah Haroun of Qatar (44.48). "It was quite freezing‚" he said. "I struggled to get myself warmed up and ready. "I think for about 200m, I was doubting my momentum and I think the last 150m, I tried putting in an extra gear, but I just couldn’t catch my stride.
"[Over] the last few metres, I… looked up to the screen and I noticed how far ahead I was.
"Immediately, I thought of my health and realising I still have two more rounds to run and I thought ‘if the times aren’t going to come, there’s no use for me to push it all the way to my limit’."
Sprinter Isaac Makwala of Botswana has been cleared to run in the 200m in a dramatic about-turn by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which previously barred him for medical reasons.
Makwala was prevented from running in Monday’s 200m heat and Tuesday’s 400m final. The 30-year-old, a leading contender in both events, insisted he was fit enough to race. However, the IAAF said he had an infectious disease and needed to be quarantined.
On Wednesday, the IAAF said the quarantine period had ended and Makwala could run in the semifinals — provided he first achieved the qualifying time of 20.53sec in an individual time trial before the main session.