Wayde's road to recovery
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.”
STARTING OVER: World 400m record holder Wayde van Niekerk with coach ‘Tannie’ Ans Botha