Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk sets sights on Doha

“I am exactly where I need to be,” said the 400m world record holder.

3 min By Evelyn Watta
Wayde Van Niekerk.

Wayde van Niekerk is working to be ready for the IAAF 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, after injury kept him out for over a year.

The 26-year-old South African has not raced competitively since August 2017 and missed the whole of 2018 to focus on recovery and rehabilitation.

But there could be an end in sight, with his management team hopeful that he could compete at the championships to be held from 27 September to 6 October.

“He is training and maximising his time to be ready for Doha.”

—van Niekerk’s manager Peet van Zyl, speaking to the Olympic Channel

“With the intensive rehab programme we followed in 2018, and not competing at all, [it] has allowed Wayde to work under close medical supervision from the rehab team at Aspetar clinic (in Doha) without any pressure to compete, and he is now ready and back at full training," van Zyl added.

The Rio 2016 Olympic champion and 400m world record holder gave an update on his progress on social media after three months of track training.

“I am exactly where I need to be.”

Return to top shape

If van Niekerk returns to full health, his target, for now, will be to get ready for the 400m heats at the Worlds on 1 October.

Before then, the 200m and 400m racer could test his form in the Diamond League or the IAAF World Challenge meetings.

But his coach Ans Botha told Netwerk that there is no rush to compete before summer.

"It's a situation we need to manage with extreme care. I don't want to make any predictions, but at this stage, we are positive that he will be able to get his first few races when the European season begins," said the 76-year-old coach.

Main goal? Tokyo 2020

The two-time world champion also has his eyes on competing at his second Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Even Usain Bolt has advised him that the Games should remain his focus.

‘I’ve been talking to Wayde over the past few days,” the eight-time Jamaican Olympic champion told Times Live while attending a product launch in Johannesburg in January.

“He’s happy with his training, and he’s feeling good. I actually told him ‘don’t push it too hard’ - Olympics is always the main goal. I’ll be watching him also this season.”

Lengthy lay-off

It has been a rather long recovery path for the celebrated South African sprinter since the freak knee surgery.

He had hoped to return to competition last July after missing the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

But after the lengthy rehabilitation in Colorado, Doha, and Bloemfontein, he opted to skip the whole season.

The world record

Van Niekerk, who resumed track training last November, defended his world title in the 400m in London in 2017 and took silver in the 200m.

Undoubtedly the most significant moment of his career was at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he broke Michael Johnson’s long-standing world record, crossing the lines in 43.03 seconds.

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