LONDON – Wayde van Niekerk has admitted to having to fight off self-doubt, but believed his positive mindset would prevail ahead of Tuesday’s 400m final at the IAAF World Championships in London.
The South African was in fine form as he preserved his energy, racing to victory in the second fastest time of the semi-finals on Sunday night by clocking 44.22 seconds at the London Stadium.
There is no rest for the wicked as the 25-year-old will be hoping for a good recovery overnight before he lines up in Monday night’s 200m heats.
“I’m giving myself a tough time, I won’t lie to you. There are so many doubts, but at the same time belief, so it is good and evil fighting in my mind,” Van Niekerk said on Sunday night.
“But I will pull through, I always do, and it is a competition we need to go through to be the best, and I’m (ready) for it.”
Van Niekerk was initially drawn into the first semi-final, but a re-draw saw the South African backing into the blocks in the second one-lap race.
The defending and world record-holder expressed his relief over the change in the programme after Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner posted a sub-44-second time of 43.89.
“I’m glad I was taken out of that because that heat looked a bit crazy, so that was a bit of a blessing,” Van Niekerk said.
“Whoever changed it, thank you. I would have had to run a 43.8 to have qualified.
“I was surprised (about the change) as well. It didn’t come from the South African team, not at all.”
Southern Africa will be well represented in the final after Baboloki Thebe of Botswana finished behind Van Niekerk with a time of 44.33.
Moving into the final straight, Thebe held a slight lead over the South African, but Van Niekerk stepped up another gear as he glanced at the Batswana athlete before dipping first.
“It was good, and obviously I have to be conservative with all the rounds I have ahead of me,” Van Niekerk said.
“With the quality of competition I am running against, it doesn’t make the job easy. I just have to take it step by step and hope for the best.”
Posing one of the biggest threats to Van Niekerk’s title defence, Isaac Makwala, also of Botswana, booked a lane for the final by winning his heat in a time of 44.30.
Earlier, South African women’s 100m record-holder Carina Horn was knocked out of her semi-final, finishing sixth in her race with a time of 11.26.
“I was hoping for a better time, but I can do nothing about that. My goal was to reach the final or break the SA record,” Horn said.
South Africa’s top 110m hurdler Antonio Alkana suffered a similar fate in his semi-final, crossing the line in fourth place with 13.59, which is way off his best of 13.11.