Wayde van Niekerk. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Wayde van Niekerk. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Wayde van Niekerk still experiences pain in his reconstructed right knee and he does not know when he will regain his all-conquering form‚ but the Olympic and world champion wants to lower his 400m world record.

“It’s not 100%‚” Van Niekerk said of the right knee that underwent surgery soon after injuring it during a game of tag rugby in late 2017.

“I don’t know when it will be 100% but my mind’s set on doing what I can do‚ doing whatever is expected of me and seeing where that takes me. No athlete is ever pain-free so I just have one that I caused on myself. I have to take the knocks and work from there.”

Van Niekerk‚ who last raced internationally in 2017‚ was speaking at a function in Midrand to officially announce a three-year extension of his contract with sponsor T-Systems.

He has only just started racing again‚ and at the weekend clocked a pedestrian 47.28sec winning in his home town of Bloemfontein. It is way off his 43.03 world mark‚ but the manner in which he won — with a strong kick over the final 100m to haul in the leaders — looked impressive.

Van Niekerk was more critical‚ however‚ saying it had helped him identify areas he needed to work on.

“I would have liked my comeback to look way better than that though. To me, it was to try get that mental comfort again‚ to know that I can stand next to other competitors again.

“My first 200m was very rusty‚ just trying to find my feet again‚ find my momentum again‚ and once I got that momentum it really just gave me confidence that I can stay in it for the entire 400m.”

The big question is when he will hit his straps again. Retired 400m hurdles great Edwin Moses recently speculated that it could take the South African two years to get back to his best.

Van Niekerk was not prepared to agree.

“If I can’t put a time to it then I don’t know how he got that right‚ but I mean I’ve never met him before. I never had a conversation with him. To me that’s opinion and I respect his opinion. I’ve had thousands of opinions during my career but I’ve also proved many of them wrong.

"So I’m out here to work hard ... if it takes a year‚ so be it‚ if takes a few months‚ then so be it‚ if it takes two years then I guess he was spot on. But at the moment I’m more focused on doing what I need to do.”

Before the injury Van Niekerk had added the 200m to his competition roster‚ but now he is going to focus solely on the 400m. “I’m going back to the 400m to progress to the 42 [sub-43sec]‚ and then we’ll decide from there.”

He said he knew when he would return to serious competition again. “I do‚ but you won’t.”