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Athletics | SA Track & Field

Wayde van Niekerk © Gallo Images

Wayde shifts focus to shorter sprint double

Wayde van Niekerk won’t be trying any more 400-200m doubles again any time soon.

In fact, any doubles he attempts in the future will be of the shorter variety – the 100 and 200m. That’s his plan for the coming year.

Speaking after finishing with the 200m silver medal after his 400m gold on Tuesday, Van Niekerk said: “If I had to refer to the 400 – I’d love to have that as an individual event and improve my world record again. And the only double I think I’d consider now is the 100 and 200.

“I have been thinking about it. I’d love to do a bit of 100 and 200 at the Commonwealth Games next year but obviously I’m going to have to do some 400s as well at the Diamond Leagues and World Challenges and so on.

“But I think we haven’t really thought that far. We were focusing on the double this week and after this season, we’ll sit back with coach and decide where we’re going to invest our time.

“But I definitely want to do the 100m and 200m at Commonwealths next year.”

Last year Van Niekerk became the first man in history to run sub-10 seconds for the 100m, sub-20 for the 200m and sub-44 for the 400m, making it difficult for him to decide where to focus his efforts on the track.

But he admitted, taking on the 400-200m double, last achieved at a World Championships 22 years ago by American Michael Johnson, had been a tough task. It was Johnson’s 400m world record that the South African broke in Rio last year on his way to Olympic gold.

"I felt how tough it was yesterday already, I just barely, barely made it into the final and tonight I knew this was my only opportunity and last chance to give it my everything,” he admitted.

“I think my toughest two days of competition were definitely the 400m final and then the semifinals yesterday (Wednesday), dealing with the conditions we had. It was quite freezing so I had two days of freezing competition. Then I didn’t get much sleep because obviously I had a massive high after the 400m final and then had to recover and the semifinal was very difficult. I had to dig deep.”

Van Niekerk only just made it through the 200m semifinal as one of the fastest ‘losers’ but came out firing in the final.

“Mentally I was ready, physically it was a very tough challenge, especially having a few 400s and 200s in my legs. We all knew this was going to happen, we all knew this is how the body was going to feel. I feel I fought successfully,” said the Olympic champion, who was in tears after the race.

“The fact was the legs were going whether I was concerned or not, I just tried to continue fighting and making sure I get over the finish line, among the medals. I think silver is still a beautiful colour to have.”

Speaking about Johnson’s feat, which he then repeated at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, Van Niekerk added: “I’ve got massive respect for the great things he’s done for the sport. And for the double. It’s not easy challenge but I think it was successful.”


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