Johannesburg - The South African champion and record holder,
Wayde van Niekerk, proved on Saturday by winning the 400m at the Diamond League
in London that whoever wants to win a medal at the World Championships in
Beijing will have to reckon with him.
LJ van Zyl (second in the 400m hurdles), Zarck Visser
(second in the long jump), Anaso Jobodwana (third in the 200m) were the other
South Africans who impressed in London.
It is tempting to get carried away when describing Van
Niekerk’s speedy exploits on the track. It has been a while since South Africa
produced an athlete with an ability to consistently take on the world’s best
and beat them, therefore the use of words such as ‘exciting’ and ‘amazing’ when
reporting on the South African’s fleet footedness is surely justified.
So far this season Van Niekerk has managed to break the
South African 400m record on two occasions and he has also improved the SA 200m
record. He was one of only four athletes who were able to run the 200m in
sub-20 seconds and the 400m in sub-44 seconds.
Van Niekerk has also won his last two Diamond League races.
His other victory was in Paris.
What was exciting about Saturday’s race was Van Niekerk’s
ability to power away from his rivals over the last 60 or so metres, leaving
his nemesis, Isaac Makwala (Botswana), behind. The South African won in 44.63
seconds, David Verburg (US) was second in 45.01 seconds, Christopher Brown
(Bahamas) was third in 45.22 seconds and Makwala fourth in 45.29 seconds.
“I came here wanting to win. The season has certainly been a
blessing to me so far and the Diamond Race points are a bonus. ‘Whatever happens happens’.
“This was my last Diamond League race before the World
Championships and I just wanted to finish in a good time and feel confident
before the Championships. It was an honour to compete here,” Van Niekerk said.
Van Zyl (Tuks/HPC)’s battle right until the end to win the
400m hurdles in London was impressive, but it was Michael Tinsley (US) who won
in 49.02 seconds, with the South African second in 49.27 seconds and Niall Flannery
(Britain) third in 49.53 seconds.
“What a race,” is how Van Zyl reacted after his dual with
“Time was of no importance to me this time. My main goal was
to make sure that Michael Tinsley and Johnny Dutch (US) do not get a lead on
me. What excites me is that I was able to finish so strongly. I think I have
worked out my race tactics for the World Championships in Beijing. I might
decide to slightly conserve my energy in the back straight and then give it my
all going into the home straight. This was my last race before the world
Van Zyl admits that he was slightly nervous before the race.
“Two days before the race I trained in rainy conditions
which, in hindsight, was not very clever because I picked up a slight cold. It
was nothing serious but at the start I could not help wondering how my body
would hold up during the race. Luckily I
had no problems,” the Tuks/HPC-athlete said.
The Commonwealth and African Champion, Cornel Fredericks
(Tuks/HPC), was 9th in 51.22 seconds. It was only his second race this season.
Dendy Marquis (US)’s jump of 8.38m was good enough to win
the long jump. Visser was second in 8.21m and Greg Rutherford (Britain) third
with a jump of 8.18m). South Africa’s Khotso Mokoena was fourth with a season
best of 8.16m.
Zharnel Hughes (Britain) won the 200m in 20.05 seconds.
Dedric Dukes (US) was second in 20.14 seconds and Jobodwana (SA) third in 20.20 seconds.
Sunette Viljoen was fourth in the javelin (63.14m), Wenda
Nel 5th in the 400m hurdles (54.81 seconds) and Elroy Gelant 11th in the 3000m