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Athletics champion Wayde van Niekerk. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
Athletics champion Wayde van Niekerk. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

Wayde van Niekerk returned to winning ways for the first time in more than a year as he finished first in his season-opening 400m in 44.58 sec at the Stars & Stripes Classic in Marietta‚ Georgia‚ on Saturday evening.

It was fractionally slower than his 44.56 in Madrid from June 2021 when he clocked his fastest time since returning from knee surgery in 2017.

For Van Niekerk‚ who pulled out of the SA championships in April as a precautionary measure and then pulled up in a 200m in Italy in May‚ this was his first completed race this season‚ less than two weeks before the start of the world championships.

He finished nearly a second ahead of Jamaicans Rusheen Mcdonald in 45.43 and Demish Gaye in 45.47‚ both of whom achieved international medals in relays.

Van Niekerk‚ the owner of the 43.03 world record‚ will turn 30 on the opening day of the global showpiece in Eugene‚ Oregon‚ on July 15. That is where he will show if he has the race fitness to get through three rounds of competition; at the Tokyo Olympics he was eliminated in the semifinals running a 45.14.

The last time a 44.5 made the podium at a world championships was 2013 in Moscow.

In Paris on Saturday night Luxolo Adams‚ who recently clocked a 19.82 personal best in the 200m‚ ran to a 10.13 best in the 100m.

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