One-lap won­der Van Niek­erk tar­gets John­son dou­ble

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Wayde van Niek­erk’s bid for a first world dou­ble since 1995 now turns to the 200m af­ter he stormed to a com­fort­able vic­tory in the 400m. Af­ter ini­tially strug­gling with the cold, the 25-year-old ran a solid fi­nal bend to blast to vic­tory in 43.98 sec­onds with a lot to spare, and went straight into re­cov­ery ahead of yes­ter­day’s 200m semi-fi­nals, with the fi­nal to­day.

“It was quite freez­ing and I strug­gled to get my­self warmed up and ready,” said Van Niek­erk, who came into the 400m as de­fend­ing world and Olympic cham­pion. “I was doubt­ing my mo­men­tum. In the last 150 me­tres I tried putting in an ex­tra gear, but I couldn’t catch my stride un­til my last few me­tres. I just al­lowed the race to go through to the fin­ish line.”

Thoughts will turn straight to the 200m, and a rare dou­ble. The last ath­lete to claim the 200/400m dou­ble was Amer­i­can Michael John­son, who achieved the feat the 1995 worlds in Gothen­burg, re­peat­ing the achieve­ment a year later in the 1996 Olympics in At­lanta.

“It’s eas­ier said than done,” said Van Niek­erk, who smashed John­son’s 400m world record when win­ning gold in Rio and then his rarelyrun 300m record in Os­trava last month.

“It’s com­pe­ti­tion, it’s very un­pre­dictable. “My body still feels very good. It took me a while to re­cover. “But from en­durance I go straight to speed... It’s a day-by-day, step-bystep process for us ath­letes.”

NEW CHAL­LENGES

Van Niek­erk re­it­er­ated that ev­ery sea­son threw up new chal­lenges. “I know it’s never go­ing to be a walk in the park,” he said. “I’m just so grate­ful to say gold medal.

“Ev­ery year has its new chal­lenges, and ev­ery year it gets tough. I don’t think it ever be­came eas­ier. Right af­ter Rio I found out I had a back in­jury, and this en­tire sea­son I have been strug­gling to find fit­ness, but at the same time my times have been get­ting bet­ter, es­pe­cially in the short sprints.”

Van Niek­erk, the first ath­lete to break 10 sec­onds over 100m, 20sec over 200m and 44sec over 400m, added he was de­lighted his coach Anna “Tan­nie Ans” Botha would also I came through with a re­ceive a medal as part of a cham­pi­onships ini­tia­tive to re­ward coaches. “Ev­ery­one knows the superstar coach I have,” he said of the 74-yearold great-grand­mother who over­sees the hottest prop­erty in world ath­let­ics.

“It’s ac­tu­ally a mas­sive hon­our for me to be able to reach these great heights with her. “She has had to wait a long time - with the third gold, she gets to take one home with her too. Un­for­tu­nately my two pre­vi­ous medals had to go to Mum as she said ‘Ev­ery­thing achieved at home has to stay here’. So I am glad to be able to take this one home my­self!” — AFP

LON­DON: South Africa’s Wayde Van Niek­erk, left, crosses the line to win the gold medal in the Men’s 400m fi­nal ahead of Ba­hamas’ Steven Gar­diner, right, who took bronze dur­ing the World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don Tues­day. — AP

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