Wayde van Niekerk returns with a win

Wayde van Niekerk PHOTO: MORGAN PIEK

The 400m world record holder and Olympic champion, Wayde van Niekerk, has finally made his long-awaited return to the track after being injured for more than a year.

Van Niekerk injured his knee in October 2017 during a freak accident while playing in a celebrity rugby match at Newlands in Cape Town.

The injury led to the fastest man on the planet over the distance missing the entire 2018, which included the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Van Niekerk took to the track on Monday evening during the University of the Free State’s annual hostel meet, and there he won the 400m, and also claimed the bragging rights in the 800m for men.

It was on Saturday where Van Niekerk made his official comeback to athletics during the Free State Championships staged at the Mangaung Athletics track in Bloemfontein.

As it was the 26-year-old’s first proper event in nearly a year and a half, he was a long way off the 43.03 sec time which won him the gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Van Niekerk started slow out of the blocks, and it is understandable. It appeared that the 400m international hurdler, Cornel Fredericks, was set the win, however, it was in the last 150m where Van Niekerk cracked on the afterburners to win gold.

Van Niekerk, won the race in a 47.28 sec, for a fairly comfortable win over Fredericks, who clinched the silver in 47.50 sec.

Van Niekerk was running in the inside lane, while Fredericks who was a couple of lanes on his outside, was running blind and unable to spot the Van Niekerk onslaught.

Hendricks is no slouch over the distance, and as he is most well-known for winning the 400m hurdles gold for South Africa during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 48.50 sec.

Unathi Oliphant made it a full podium for the Kovsies by taking the bronze in 48.66 sec.

While it was a slow and respectable return for the world champion, Van Niekerk, there was enough on offer in his performance to suggest that he will be clocking a sub-45 sec in no time. – MORGAN PIEK

Watch Van Niekerk’s return