Ricochet News

Van Niekerk targets 21-year double 200m/400m gold drought, despite semi-final struggle

BY MARC JACOBSON - AUGUST 10, 2017
Van Niekerk targets 21-year double 200m/400m gold drought, despite semi-final struggle

In heavy, wet and rainy conditions at the Olympic Stadium in London on Wednesday night, Wayde van Niekerk’s dream of winning the 200m world gold medal at the IAAF World Championships was kept alive, but only just.

In an attempt to achieve a 200m/400m double gold at a single World Championship Games; van Niekerk partook in the 200m semi-finals on Wednesday night, where he just scraped through as the second of two wildcard qualifiers into the final – meaning he went through as the last-seeded sprinter.

In the three semi-final races, the top two automatically progressed to the final, as well as the best two third-placers, tallying eight sprinters for the final.

In the third and final semi-final sprint, van Niekerk succumbed to the conditions as he endured a third place finish with a time of 20.28s – just splitting seconds ahead of race two third-placer, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake of 20.52s.

Race one’s third-placer, Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake from Great Britain finished as first wild card with 20.19s.

"Today's race was a bit tough, being my fifth race in five days. I never expected it to be easy but I'm glad and blessed to make it through. I hope for a good rest and will see when I wake how well my body recovers to race another day, but I have to run,” van Niekerk commented.

“It’s been a difficult week for Wayde in his quest for a double and we wish him a speedy body recovery to be able to have a fair challenge of the 200m crown. We wish all athletes remaining good luck and thank all whose competition has ended for giving their best," said Aleck Skhosana, President of ASA.

Just two days ago, van Niekerk soured to the 400m gold, finishing with a time of 43.98s, and the South African hopes to win the first 200m/400m double gold at a single Worlds event since 1996, when America’s Michael Johnson did it at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

This was the second time Johnson achieved this feat, after having did it for the first time in 1995 in Gothenburg.

In appalling conditions on Wednesday night though, no records were expected to be broken, as no sprinter broke the 20-second mark, with the best clocked time being America’s Isiah Young with 20.12s in race one.

In that same race, fellow SA sprinter, Akani Simbine slumped to a seventh-place finish with a time of 20.62s.

Van Niekerk will race in lane three in the finals on Thursday night at 22:50 (SA time). Of the eight finalists, van Niekerk has the best personal-best time for the 200m of 19.84s; so the 25-year-old is still picked as the favourite to win gold.

Image: Wayde van Niekerk sprinting in wet conditions in the 200m semi-finals on Wednesday night.