Wayde's road to re­cov­ery

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

WAYDE van Niek­erk’s first love may be the shorter sprints, but he will have to put it on the back-burner once he is back to full fit­ness.

The 400m world record holder has started re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fol­low­ing an op­er­a­tion to his right knee.

Van Niek­erk’s equally fa­mous coach, “Tan­nie” Ans Botha, said yes­ter­day they were ef­fec­tively back to when she first started work­ing with the star ath­lete.

He started out as a promis­ing 200m ath­lete and fin­ished fourth on his in­ter­na­tional de­but at the 2010 World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships in Canada.

But due to per­sis­tent ham­string in­juries, Botha de­cided to move her charge to the one-lap sprint.

As much as Van Niek­erk dis­likes the 400m, it has earned him global fame and ad­mi­ra­tion.

“We have to wait and see af­ter he re­turns from Qatar af­ter he has com­pleted his re­hab,” Botha said.

“We have to work day by day and lis­ten care­fully to his body, ad­just, and work like we have the past five years.”

Botha has been ex­tremely pro­tec­tive of her pro­tégé keep­ing his am­bi­tions of rac­ing the 100 and 200m in check. It was only this year that she has given him some slack to race the short sprints.

“In the past five years we went through a lot; some days we could train and some­times you have lis­ten to the body and rest com­pletely for that day.

“This year, Wayde ran his best times in the 100m, he ran an SA 200m record, broke the 300m world best and he was able to de­fend his 400m world ti­tle as well as bring­ing home the 200m silver medal.”

Be­fore sus­tain­ing me­dial and lat­eral tears of the menis­cus, as well as a torn an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in a touch rugby match last month, Van Niek­erk had his sights set on a 100/200m dou­ble at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

Now, how­ever, he is ex­pected to be out of ac­tion for at least six months and is likely to only race com­pet­i­tively again next Au­gust. “Be­cause the Com­mon­wealth Games is so early in the year, Wayde and I planned to han­dle the Games as if it is our na­tional cham­pi­onships,” Botha said.

“We have to put that on ice, but at this stage we can­not make any de­ci­sions re­gard­ing his pro­gramme for the year.”

The first aim will be to get Van Niek­erk back to world-class form and once he is fit and healthy, he is likely to con­tinue his pur­suit of be­com­ing the first man to dip be­low 43 sec­onds in the 400m.

His 200m is un­likely to suf­fer from the set­back but it will take ef­fort con­vinc­ing Botha to al­low Van Niek­erk to get into the blocks again in the 100m.

“So many things now de­pend on his re­cov­ery but I don’t think he will run the 100m be­cause we have to pro­tect and look af­ter his in­jury and give him enough time to re­cover prop­erly from his in­jury and get strong again,” Botha said.

“The 400m doesn’t have that ex­plo­sive speed so at this stage I don’t know if he’d be able to han­dle that ex­plo­sive speed in the 100m.”

BACKPAGEPIX

START­ING OVER: World 400m record holder Wayde van Niek­erk with coach ‘Tan­nie’ Ans Botha

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