Cape Town - World record holder Wayde van Niekerk will not
defend his 400m title at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar later this
month, but the sprint sensation and his management team remain confident that
he will make a return to the track.
Van Niekerk, who picked up a serious knee injury in
late 2017, had returned to training after undergoing surgery, but faced
another minor setback earlier this year and his comeback was delayed further
for precautionary reasons.
Having undergone additional rehabilitation at the
Aspetar sports medicine hospital in Doha, Van Niekerk was back at his European
base in Gemona, Italy this week where he had been given the go ahead by coach
Ans Botha to resume training.
"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," said Van Niekerk, a two-time world champion and Olympic gold
medalist over the 400m distance.
"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.
"For now I'm not rushing myself or putting
pressure on myself. I'm extremely happy and at peace with where I am."
His doctor, Louis Holtzhausen, also remained
confident that Van Niekerk would be able to make his highly anticipated return
to racing down the line, with the latest rehabilitation process yielding
"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
Van Niekerk memorably set a new world record in the 400m at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, stopping the clock in a time of 43.03.
The 2019 IAAF World Championships will start on Friday, September 27 and run until Sunday, October 6.
Team SA will also be without star women's 800m runner Caster Semenya, thus greatly diminishing their prospects of medals in Qatar.
Van Niekerk (400m - gold, 200m - silver) and Semenya (800m - gold, 1 500m - bronze) were responsible for four of the six medals Team SA won at the last world championships in London in 2017.
Compiled by Garrin Lambley