Af­ter the race, sym­pa­thy for side­lined Botswana ri­val Mak­wala: ‘I wish I could even give him my medal’

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - OCK­ERT DE VIL­LIERS

DOMINE, dirige nos. Lord, guide us, reads the English trans­la­tion of the Latin motto for the City of Lon­don but is also sim­i­lar to the prayer Wayde van Niek­erk said be­fore he raced to his sec­ond world 400m ti­tle in the English cap­i­tal.

As part of his pre-race rou­tine, Van Niek­erk goes down on one knee, pray­ing he and the rest of the field fin­ish in one piece.

Van Niek­erk and his fel­low fi­nal­ists safely nav­i­gated their way over the line in Tues­day night’s one-lap fi­nal as he be­came only the sec­ond South African af­ter Hestrie Cloete’s high-jump dou­ble in 2001 and 2003 to de­fend a world ti­tle.

“I’m just glad things worked out for us be­fore the race; it is one thing be­liev­ing you can get the gold medal and it is a dif­fer­ent thing ac­tu­ally go­ing out there and pro­duc­ing it,” Van Niek­erk said.

“I know it was never go­ing to be a walk in the park, as the com­pe­ti­tion is al­ways go­ing to be stiff – es­pe­cially nowa­days in the 400 me­tres. It is a day by day com­pe­ti­tion and any­one can come up with any re­sult on the day so I am just so grate­ful that I can say I came through with the gold yet again.”

One of the most an­tic­i­pated races at the bi­en­nial show­piece came to an al­most anti-cli­mac­tic fin­ish as the South African won the ti­tle in al­most a can­ter, cross­ing the line in a time of 43.98 sec­onds.

There was no wow-mo­ment, no ex­cite­ment as the South African gave the packed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Sta­dium a muted cel­e­bra­tion.

Tak­ing his foot off the gas over the fi­nal 30 me­tres, Van Niek­erk was fol­lowed by Ba­hamian ath­lete Steven Gardiner in sil­ver clock­ing 44.41 with Qatar’s Ab­dale­lah Haroun third in 44.48.

The empty lane next to Van Niek­erk may have had some­thing to do with the lack of ex­cite­ment in a race that only two years ago sparked a frenzy over the rise of Van Niek­erk, one of the world’s new­est su­per­stars.

That sev­enth lane be­longed Motswana star Isaac Mak­wala, who was con­tro­ver­sially de­nied en­try to the sta­dium af­ter he was placed un­der 48 hours quar­an­tine fol­low­ing a con­firmed out­break of norovirus among ath­letes at the cham­pi­onships.

Mak­wala came to the sta­dium on Tues­day in­sist­ing he was fit to com­pete but IAAF of­fi­cials blocked him from en­ter­ing.

The Motswana ath­lete was tipped to be Van Niek­erk’s big­gest ri­val as he was tar­get­ing his own 200-400m dou­ble af­ter boast­ing the fastest 200m and sec­ond best 400m time in the world this year.

Asked about Mak­wala’s ab­sence from the race, the ever-diplo­matic Van Niek­erk ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for his South­ern African neigh­bour.

“It was def­i­nitely a heart­break­ing mo­ment.

“It is now two good com­peti­tors this year, Ki­rani James and Isaac, hav­ing to with­draw through ill­nesses.

“I’d have loved for Isaac to have had his op­por­tu­nity, he would have done very well.

I’ve got so much sym­pa­thy for him. I wish I could even give him my medal but this is sports, th­ese things hap­pen and each and ev­ery one of us needs to go out and fight and make the most of our op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

See IOL for the re­port of last night’s late 200m semi­fi­nal in which Van Niek­erk and fel­low South African Akani Sim­bine com­peted.


ON TOP OF THE WORLD AGAIN: Wayde van Niek­erk proudly dis­plays the Rain­bow Na­tion flag af­ter win­ning the men’s 400m fi­nal at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don.

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