Makwala makes good on a second chance
Runner from Botswana beats the rain, stomach virus to reach 200 final
After five pushups to prove he has beaten a stomach virus, Isaac Makwala made the most of a belated chance to compete in the 200 metres at the world championships on Wednesday and qualified for the final.
The runner from Botswana was first allowed to race alone on the track ahead of the evening session at the Olympic Stadium, two days after the other sprinters did so. He finished in 20.20 seconds, .33 seconds under the qualifying mark.
He was then given a tough assignment to reach the final, but despite the tight bend and the water puddles from the relentless rain in Lane 1, he powered through to qualify second from his heat in 20.14, just behind Isiah Young of the United States.
“Let’s not talk about what happened. Let’s talk about what is now,” Makwala said. “I’m happy the IAAF decided to make me run again. I’m happy to run again.”
Makwala’s biggest rival for gold, 400 champion Wayde van Niekerk, got through to Thursday’s final as the last qualifier after finishing third in his heat. Given the much better Lane 6, Van Niekerk was still much slower than Makwala, finishing in 20.28.
“I knew it would be a tough challenge,” Van Niekerk said. “I have time to recover now.”
After two races in one evening, Makwala will need it even more. The Botswanan was kept out of the 400 final by organizers on Tuesday because of the stomach virus.
He also pulled out of the opening heats in the 200 on Monday because of illness.
“I am running with anger,” Makwala said. “The 400 metres is my race. But thanks to the crowd, they were amazing.”
After 48 hours of drama about whether Makwala would be allowed to run any more races at the championships, the IAAF made an exception and sent Makwala out on his own in driving rain Wednesday evening chasing a mark of 20.53 seconds.
The Botswanan did it easily, and then got down on the track and did a handful of pushups as the crowd roared.
Makwala had already qualified for the 400 final when he was a no-show for the 200 heats, suffering from a stomach virus that affected about 30 people at the championships.
Because of the danger to other athletes, the IAAF kept him out of that 400 final, despite Makwala’s insistence that he was back to full fitness.
“I’m still running with my heart broken,” Makwala said. “I was ready to run.”
In the women’s 400, it was Phyllis Francis of the United States who upset the favourites.
Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo looked poised to win gold until she slowed in the final meters, seemingly with pain in her right leg.
Salwa Eid Naser swept past Allyson Felix near the line and lunged for silver, ahead of the American veteran.
Francis finished in 49.92 seconds, .14 seconds ahead of Naser. Felix took third in 50.08 and Miller-Uibo was fourth.
“At the finish line I was surprised. I thought I was second or third,” Francis said. “But then they told me, ‘You are first.’ That is crazy.”
Despite her disappointing third-place finish, Felix won her 14th career medal at the world championships.
That put her in a tie with Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey at the top of the list.
Bolt can still move to 15 with a medal in the 4x100 relay this weekend, but Felix might run on both relay races for the U.S. team, which could bring her to 16.
Botswana’s Isaac Makwala reacts after finishing a men’s 200m semifinal during the World Athletics Championships in London, Wednesday.