Wayde van Niekerk is set to finally make his return to international athletics after over three years out when he competes on Tuesday 15 September.
The 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the men’s 400 metres, Van Niekerk has been trodding a long slow road back from an injury sustained playing a game of touch rugby in aid of charity in 2017.
Wayde van Niekerk best by setbacks
Van Niekerk withdrew from the 2019 South African Championships, with the race staged on a wet track and the runner unwilling to risk it.
Instead van Niekerk waited a year and returned to the track at the 2020 National championships. He was well off his usual pace but was happy to get his career moving again.
Last month van Niekerk was ruled out of the IAAF sanctioned Trieste meeting after he tested positive for the coronavirus. He suffered no symptoms and soon tested negative but was not cleared to compete.
A body blow
The runners camp were left bewildered by the turn of events.
“I don’t know how it’s possible. Wayde has been training for the whole week and never had any symptom, not even after testing positive. He hasn’t had a fever,” the 28-year-old’s manager Peet Van Zyl told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
Van Niekerk will run just one race in Europe before returning to South Africa to continue his preparation for the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Wayde van Niekerk getting a feel for competition
Van Niekerk hasn’t set himself any goals for the Gala dei Castelli meet in Bellinzona, Switzerland.
His comeback was derailed by the positive test which meant that he was stuck in isolation and rendered unable to train.
“My body is in good health‚ which I’m grateful for‚ and I’m looking forward to racing again‚” said Van Niekerk. “We don’t have any goals for the meeting. I’m just excited to see how my body feels again in a race situation‚ and it will be nice to loosen up the legs.
“It will give us a good indication of where I am in my training‚ after having to spend 25 days in isolation‚ and we can then focus on what needs to be done to gain some momentum towards the 2021 season.”
The IAAF and IOC have extended the qualification period for the next Olympic Games.
South African sprinter Akani Simbine‚ long-jumper Ruswahl Samaai and hurdler Antonio Alkana will also take part in the event, Simbine and Alkana will then move on to the Diamond League meeting in Rome.