LONDON – It may not have been a golden one, but Wayde van Niekerk still walked away with a double-medal haul at the IAAF World Championships by adding the 200m silver to his 400m title on Thursday night.
Van Niekerk became the first South African athlete to win two individual medals at the same world championships.
The South African sprinting sensation came out of the bend should-to-shoulder with Turkish athlete Ramil Guliyev, and as the duo tussled over the final painful metres, Guliyev edged ahead of Van Niekerk to cross the line first in a time of 20.09 seconds.
Van Niekerk dipped at the line in a time of 20.11 for a photo finish with Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago, who had to settle for the bronze with the same time.
With his second-placed finish, Van Niekerk ensured South Africa’s best ever medal haul at the world championships of five – two gold, a silver and two bronze.
The 25-year-old attempted to become only the fourth person in history to achieve the 200m-400m sweep at the world championships or the Olympic Games.
South Africa’s one-lap wonder proved to be equally adept over the 200m distance, working hard for one of the most difficult milestones in world athletics by going through six days of competitive racing in the heats, semi-finals and finals in both distances.
It was an audacious attempt by Van Niekerk, who was trying to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Michael Johnson, who achieved the golden double at the 1995 world championships in Gothenburg.
Earlier, Caster Semenya comfortably advanced into the 800m semi-finals as she looks to complete her own double at the championships.
Semenya produced her customary kick as she came out of the final bend to cross the line first in a time of two minutes, 01.33 seconds (2:01.33).
The Olympic champion lined up in the two-lap race only two days after she claimed a gutsy bronze medal in the 1 500m.
“It was a bit quicker than the pace I was looking for in the first round, but 2:01 is a reasonable pace,” Semenya said.
“The girls are looking good, but I just need to focus on what I need to do, then I will deliver.”
Unlike the 1 500m, Semenya is the overwhelming favourite in the 800m, in which she has been unbeaten in 18 finals over the last two years.
“I just want to keep winning, that’s all I’m concentrating on,” Semenya said.
“I’m feeling okay after the 1 500m, so I’m ready to go again. It is like a second home here in this stadium. I am loving every minute of it.”
Semenya will be joined in the semi-finals by former training partner Gena Lofstrand, who initially thought she had been knocked out of her heat after crossing the line in seventh place with 2:01.73.
“I thought I didn’t make it, I really thought I was done and I was feeling a bit disappointed,” Lofstrand said.
“But as I was walking up the stairs, I sat down, looked up and saw my name with a Q on the board, and I got all my energy back again.”
Lining up in the same semi-final as defending women’s 200m champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, Justine Palframan finished in seventh place in a time of 23.21 seconds.
Meanwhile, javelin thrower Rocco van Rooyen missed out on a spot in Friday night’s final, with the South African falling well short of the qualifying mark of 83 metres, posting a best heave of 74.02m.