The 400m world record-holder and Olympic champion, Wayde van Niekerk, won the South African 200m title in Pretoria on Saturday, but missed out on the qualifying time for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
The 28-year-old from Bloemfontein clocked 20.38 seconds at the University of Pretoria during the ASA Senior National Champions, just 0.14 sec outside the minimum time needed to compete at the summer games.
At this stage, Van Niekerk is still holding his cards close to his chest, and it remains to be seen if he will compete in both the 200m and 400m, or just concentrate on his title defence.
The national championships was Van Niekerk’s final event before heading to the USA where he will start working with his new coach, Lance Brauman.
Van Niekerk has parted ways with his long-time coach, Ans Botha, who is 79 years old.
Following his win on Saturday evening, Van Niekerk conceded that mentally he was not switched on for the sprint.
“Mentally, I was not there. I had intense sessions on Monday and Tuesday, building toward the future, so the body was quite beaten up. I was just trying to come out of the championships healthy. That is what I did and it was a good feeling to win again.
“My mentality is way beyond that. My goal is to run against the best in the world. A title is a good step forward knowing where I have come from, but mentally my mind is set at being the best in the world. Being the best in South Africa is something I am grateful for, but it is not something where my heart and mind is at.”
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Van Niekerk, stunned the world when he won the gold in 43.03 seconds to shatter the world record. – MORGAN PIEK