LONDON – Wayde van Niekerk’s pursuit of a rare 200m-400m double at the IAAF World Championships in London is looking vulnerable after he scraped through to the 200m final as a non-automatic qualifier on Wednesday night.
Van Niekerk looked uncharacteristically stiff in cold and wet conditions the night after successfully defending his 400m world title, but he will have a second bite of the cherry in Thursday night’s 200m final.
The double world champion may well still be feeling the effects of a tough schedule, as the 200m final will mark his sixth consecutive night of competitive racing over both distances.
He crossed the line in third place in a time of 20.28 seconds, with Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev and Ameer Webb of the United States crossing first and second in 20.17 and 20.22 respectively.
Van Niekerk is on the cusp of becoming the first man since American icon Michael Johnson at Gothenburg in 1995 to win the 200m-400m double gold.
“I knew it would be a tough challenge, but to see my name in the final is a real pleasure,” Van Niekerk said.
“I’ve got time to recover now and give it my all in the final.”
Akani Simbine, who featured in Saturday evening’s dramatic 100m final – where he finished in fifth place in 10.01 – was not as lucky, missing out on a final berth in the 200m.
The South African 100m record-holder looked out of sorts as he slowly got out of the blocks in the first semi-final of the evening, finishing seventh in a time of 20.62.
Warming the hearts on a cold, dreary and wet British summer’s day, crowd favourite Isaac Makwala of Botswana made it into the final after being denied entry into the stadium for his 400m final the night before.
Only two hours after earning a spot in lane one for the semi-final, Makwala blitzed to second place in a time of 20.14, with American Isiah Young crossing first in 20.12.
Makwala was controversially denied entry to the stadium ahead of the one-lap final after he was placed under 48-hours quarantine following a confirmed outbreak of norovirus among athletes at the championships.
The Motswana sensation became one of the darlings of the showpiece earlier on Wednesday evening when he lined-up for a lone time trial to gain entry into the 200m semi-finals.
Required to run a time of 20.53 or faster to advance, Makwala booked his place in emphatic fashion, clocking 20.20.
Makwela started in lane seven, which was his original lane drawn in the opening round before the IAAF withdrew him from Monday’s 200m heats due to his illness.
The 30-year-old dipped well below the qualifying time, before dropping to the track to add a few push-ups for good measure.
He was diagnosed with an infectious disease relating to an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis at the Tower Hotel where he was staying.
South Africa will have a chock-a-block Thursday evening, with Caster Semenya, who claimed a 1 500m bronze medal on Monday, opening her 800m campaign.
She will be joined by former training partner Gena Lofstrand, while Justine Palframan will back into the blocks in the 200m semi-final.
Javelin thrower Rocco van Rooyen will round off South Africa’s evening, where he will hope to make it into the final of his specialist event.
SA Athletes On Thursday
8.43pm: Caster Semenya – 800m heats
9.10pm: Gena Lofstrand – 800m heats
9.35pm: Rocco van Rooyen – javelin qualifying
10.05pm: Justine Palframan – 200m semi-finals
10.52pm: Wayde van Niekerk – 200m final