South Africa’s medal hopes at this month’s IAAF world championships in Doha suffered another blow with the news that Wayde van Niekerk will not be in action.
The two-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist announced this week that he would not be able to defend his 400m global title in Doha.
Van Niekerk, who injured his knee during a tag rugby game in 2017, suffered a setback earlier this year which meant he could not make his much-anticipated return to the track.
“I’m still positive, and I’m just taking things day by day, respecting all the calls made by the doctor and respecting my body,” Van Niekerk said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“For me, it’s just about listening to my body and taking it from there. My main goal is to look after my body, and when the opportunity comes, I’ll take it,” he noted.
Van Niekerk’s camp said the global superstar was back at his base in Gemona, Italy following another round of rehabilitation at the Aspetar sports medicine hospital in Doha. His coach Ans Botha has given him the go-ahead to resume training.
Van Niekerk’s doctor in Doha, Louis Holtzhausen, was confident the South African sensation would make a successful return to the track.
“The medical teams, both in Bloemfontein and Aspetar, did all we could to have him ready for the IAAF world championships, but it was just not possible,” Holtzhausen said.
“However, he has successfully returned to track training, and all indications are that he will recover more rapidly from now on,” he added.
South Africa’s medal potential suffered a severe blow due to Van Niekerk’s absence with Caster Semenya also set to miss out on the global showpiece.
Semenya is unable to compete due to the IAAF’s controversial female eligibility rules, which she has appealed against at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.