It’s lovely being back on track, says Wayde as Akani aims for Diamond League win
CAPE TOWN - Wayde van Niekerk admits that he took his time to get going, but added that it was “lovely being back on track” after winning his comeback race in Switzerland on Tuesday.
The Olympic champion returned to action in his favourite 400m at the Gala dei Castelli meeting in Bellinzona, and didn’t have things going his way from the start.
Van Niekerk appeared to be short of a gallop in the opening 200 metres – following a ‘false positive’ coronavirus test in Italy that forced him into isolation for 25 days – and he was in fifth position coming into the home straight.
But the 28-year-old picked up the pace dramatically, and powered home to victory in the final 50 metres in a time of 45.58 – a season’s best.
He will now return to South Africa to continue his training ahead of the local summer season ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“Back at it! Forgot how to race for a moment, but it’s lovely being back on track. Appreciate all the love #quietstorm Now we keep moving forward,” Van Niekerk posted on social media.
“The race was challenging,” he told the World Athletics website. “The guys went out from the beginning and I had to stick with them. The 400m is where I belong, and I showed that I am still around.”
Another star sprinter, Akani Simbine, was also triumphant in Bellizona, winning his 100m event by stopping the clock in 10.02 for his third consecutive victory in Europe.
He will make his final appearance on his current trip at the Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday, where he will be joined by fellow South Africans Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles) and Zane Weir (shot put).
Commonwealth Games champion Simbine was made to work hard for his win in Switzerland by Italian Filippo Tortu (10.07), and will have his work cut out in Rome, where his main challenger will be American Michael Rodgers, who has better personal best of 9.85 – compared to Simbine’s 9.89.
But the South African has a 2020 best of 9.91, and will be hoping for another sub-10-second time in Rome.
His coach Werner Prinsloo, though, told Independent Media on Wednesday that the 26-year-old just wants to clinch victory.
“Want to finish the season with a win. We are satisfied with his performance at this point in this weird season. There is strong competition in this field, so it will be a fight to the line,” Prinsloo said.
Alkana ran a season’s best of 13.40 seconds in ending third in Switzerland, so he will look to finish his international season on a high, while Weir will be making his Diamond League debut.
The 25-year-old shot putter went beyond the 20-metre mark for the first time in his career last month in Italy (20.12m) and increased that distance to 20.31m eight days later.