LONDON – One double down, a few more to go? Shortly after becoming the first South African athlete to win two individual medals at the same world championships in the 200m and 400m, Wayde van Niekerk revealed that the 100m-200m double was next on his wish-list.
The South African sprinting sensation’s demanding week of six consecutive days of racing came to an anti-climactic end when he added the 200m silver medal to his 400m gold from Tuesday.
“If I have to refer to the 400m, I would love to have that as an individual event, so I would love to go for my world record again,” Van Niekerk said.
“The only doubles I would consider now is the 100m and 200m. I’d love to do the 100m and 200m next year at the Commonwealth Games.”
His second-place finish ensured that Team South Africa achieved their best ever medal haul at the championships of two gold, a silver and two bronze medals.
Long-jump duo Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai opened the account with gold and bronze respectively, while Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya claimed a dramatic third place in the 1 500m.
Van Niekerk came into the championships with the goal of becoming the first man since American icon Michael Johnson at Gothenburg 1995 to win the 200m-400m double gold.
Van Niekerk and Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who was the only survivor from the 200m finals at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and the Rio Olympic Games, were neck-and-neck coming off of the bend.
The South African got his nose in front, but Guliyev managed to pull away for the victory in 20.09 seconds, leaving Van Niekerk and Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards to fight for the silver and bronze.
Posting identical times of 20.11, Van Niekerk was awarded the silver in a photo finish, with Richards rounding off the podium in third.
“It’s been a massive competition for me all around for myself, I think it has been a successful competition,” Van Niekerk said.
“The situation has been very difficult, the semi-finals of the 200m and the final of the 400m has been so difficult, especially the weather the last few days.”
The pressure and demands of attempting the double had clearly taken its toll by the fifth day of his week when Van Niekerk just managed to scrape through to Thursday’s final as one of the non-automatic qualifiers.
The night before, he successfully defended his 400m world title when he comfortably won the one-lap sprint in a time of 43.98 seconds.
“I felt how tough it was yesterday already. I just barely, barely made it into the final, and tonight I knew this was my only opportunity and last chance to give it my everything,” Van Niekerk said.
“Mentally I was ready. Physically it was a very tough challenge, especially having a few 400s and 200s in my legs.
“We all knew this was going to happen, we all knew this is how the body was going to feel.”