Former 400m hurdles world record-holder Edwin Moses believes SA track star Wayde van Niekerk will make a full comeback from a knee injury that kept him out of competition all of 2018.
Van Niekerk‚ who won the 400m at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in a world record time of 43.03sec‚ suffered a knee injury playing a charity game of touch rugby in 2017.
Initially the injury did not appear serious, but it was later confirmed as an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Van Niekerk underwent surgery and a long period of rehabilitation.
Moses‚ who understands better than most the challenges athletes face to remain fit and on top of their game‚ backed Van Niekerk’s return.
“I believe Wayde can come back as strong as ever, but it is going to take time‚” Moses said at the Laureus World Sports Awards.
“My son Julian‚ who plays collegiate volleyball‚ had the same injury and it took him two years to recover. The requirements for volleyball and track and field are probably comparable.
“It’s certainly possible Wayde will come back and be as good as he was‚ but it changes your whole dynamic as an athlete.
“It’s easier to come back from these injuries mentally than it was years ago. That’s because the technology and our understanding is so much better. The trainers and training techniques the athletes have today are better than we had‚ which makes it a lot easier.
“There is help and athletes don’t have to sit on their own and wonder about how they are going to recover. There is specialised gym equipment and training programmes that simply didn’t exist when I was running.
“It shouldn’t be a problem‚ all that matters is that mechanically the knee is strong enough for him to run and that he is mentally strong enough to keep his training regime going,” added Moses.
Van Niekerk’s world record run was achieved from lane eight in the Olympic final‚ which many considered an exceptional feat as he could not see his opponents. Moses though‚ believes it was an advantage because the bends are less severe in the outside lane.
Moses‚ who just missed out on breaking the 47sec barrier in the 400m hurdles‚ clocking a best time of 47.02sec‚ also believes the 43sec barrier in 400m can be broken.
“It is possible to break the 43sec barrier and maybe even soon‚” Moses said. “I always ran fast in lane eight. You use a lot less energy on the turns from the outside lane because it’s almost like running on a straight the entire way. When you are on the inside lanes‚ you are doing a lot of mechanical things just to make the turn and you use more energy.”
Van Niekerk is currently in Bloemfontein with his trainer and is expected to grace the track race once fully recovered.