Wayde van Niekerk in spotlight at SA Champs

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South Africans will get an indication of where Wayde van Niekerk's fitness is during the SA Championship this week. PHOTO: Getty Images

While spectators will be disappointed by the absence of the country’s most accomplished track and field star, Caster Semenya, there will be plenty of action to keep them entertained at the SA Athletics Championships starting in Potchefstroom on Thursday, with 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk stepping back into the spotlight.

After displaying his best form in five years last season, finishing fifth at the World Championships in Eugene and clocking 44.33 seconds over the one-lap distance, Van Niekerk will be eager to prove he can return to his best form as he continues to grind his way back from a serious knee injury.

The 30-year-old sprinter won’t be expected to run anywhere near his global best of 43.03 this early in the 2023 campaign, but a solid performance will suggest he has completely recovered from his career-threatening injury.

Caster Semenya
South Africa’s other former Olympic and world champion, Semenya, will be missing from the line-up this week.

Semenya was expected to compete in the women’s 5,000m event but the expansion of an international rule restricting athletes with differences of sexual development has sidelined her from the domestic track and field spectacle, with the new World Athletics ruling coming into effect on Saturday — the same day the 5,000m will be held.

In her absence, Semenya’s training partner Glenrose Xaba will turn out as the favourite to secure a 5,000m/10,000m double.

Other athletes to watch at the three-day national championships include SA 100m record holders Akani Simbine and Carina Horn, who will aim to extend their domestic dominance in the sport’s flagship event, while Luxolo Adams will be looking to tear up the track in the 200m sprint.

Elroy Gelant will need to be at his best to hold off some rising stars in the men’s 5,000m race, as will Ruswahl Samaai in the long jump, and shot put giant Kyle Blignaut will hope to flaunt some early form ahead of the international season.

Sokwakhana Zazini and Zeney van der Walt are expected to shine in the 400m hurdles contests and rising star Prudence Sekgodiso will be confident of securing double gold in the women’s 800m and 1,500m finals.

Wesley Botton/The Citizen