Wayde van Niekerk finally gets green light to travel to US
CAPE TOWN - At long last Wayde van Niekerk has been cleared to travel to the US to begin his journey to the Tokyo Olympics.
The 400m world record-holder has been stuck in South Africa in recent weeks while awaiting approval from the American authorities to fly to the US, where he will link up with his new coach Lance Brauman in Florida.
Van Niekerk will join the same training group that contains 200m world champion Noah Lyles and women's 400m Olympic winner Shaunae Miller-Uibo, after opting to move on from long-time coach Ans Botha in Bloemfontein.
The 28-year-old is looking for a fresh start in the US, hoping that it will inspire him not only to a second Olympic gold medal, but also a new world record.
His current mark of 43.03 seconds, set at the Rio Olympics, broke the long-standing time of 43.18 by American Michael Johnson. Van Niekerk is determined to become the first athlete to go under 43 seconds, which is part of the reason why he will be based in Florida before the Olympics.
“Wayde's travel documents have been approved. Now we are waiting for the passports, so we hope to have it some time this coming week,” his manager, Peet van Zyl, told Independent Media yesterday.
If his passport does arrive this week, Van Niekerk will then have to miss out on the South African athletics championships, which begins on Thursday at the TUKS Stadium in Pretoria.
The 400m heats are scheduled for Thursday afternoon, and would've been his first one-lap event in 2021.
He has said in recent weeks that his new coach Brauman “doesn't believe I'm where I need to be” for the 400m, which is why he has been competing in the 200m, where his best time was a sparkling 20.10 seconds.
Van Niekerk has spoken about getting out of the blocks quicker as well, which is all part of putting the complete race together to take aim at his own 400m world record.
Once he gets to Florida, he will get ready for the international season, with the first Diamond League meeting set for Rabat, Morocco on May 23.