Wayde van Niekerk’s return to the track in South Africa after a Covid-19-enforced break started badly, but ended in victory in Potchefstroom on Tuesday night.
The 400m world record holder’s right starting block broke, resulting in him slipping and having to play catch-up throughout the race.
MORE CONCERNED BY THE FINISH TO HIS RACE
Van Niekerk, in true world-class form, did manage to cross the line first, albeit in a rather ‘slow’ – for his standards – time of 45.89.
Van Niekerk, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics in a time of 43.03, was more concerned with the finish of his race.
“I could feel the lactic starting to build up in the last 150m and that is my indication that I have some work to do,” said a disappointed-looking Van Niekerk post-race.
Immediately after the race, Van Niekerk lay down on the side of the track for about half an hour, receiving physiotherapy before getting up and signing autographs for fans.
As is the case for all athletes, next year’s delayed Tokyo Games is Van Niekerk’s major target, and he must still qualify for the showpiece, needing to dip below 44.90 when the qualifying window opens in December.
After winning the gold medal in Rio de Janiero, Van Niekerk was laid low by a freak knee injury sustained in a celebrity touch rugby match at Newlands in 2017.