Wayde van Niekerk and his coach Ans Botha are currently in isolation in Italy. Picture: Roger Sedres/BackpagePix
Wayde van Niekerk and his coach Ans Botha are currently in isolation in Italy. Picture: Roger Sedres/BackpagePix

Wayde van Niekerk ’healthy’ after ’false positive’ Covid-19 test

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Aug 3, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - DESPITE being denied an opportunity to restart his 2020 season on Saturday night because of a “false positive” coronavirus test, Wayde van Niekerk is healthy and excited about getting back into action soon.

The 400m Olympic champion and world record-holder was scheduled to return to the athletics track at a meeting in Trieste, Italy following a lengthy break due to the coronavirus, which ended the South African season prematurely and forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021.

Before Covid-19 struck, Van Niekerk was making his way back after a nearly two-year absence following a serious knee injury during a touch rugby match at Newlands in October 2017.

The 28-year-old from Bloemfontein was able to make his way to his home away from home in Gemona, Italy for a training camp on July 19, in order to prepare for a revised European season over the next three months.

But after entering the 100m and 400m races in Trieste on Saturday night, Van Niekerk’s attempts to compete were undone by what is suspected to be a “false positive” coronavirus test.

His manager, Peet van Zyl, told Independent Media from Italy on Sunday that Van Niekerk and the rest of the South African contingent in Gemona – long jumper Ruswahl Samaai, 110m hurdler Antonio Alkana, and coaches Ans Botha and Jenny Kingwill – all had three negative coronavirus test results since their arrival in the country.

But with the fourth test last week, Van Niekerk was the only one to receive a positive result. Subsequently, though, a fifth test had a negative outcome, which he thought cleared him to run on Saturday night.

Van Zyl added that Van Niekerk then had a blood test after that, and was withdrawn shortly before the event started as a precautionary measure.

“We are all in isolation, not mixing with other people and staying on a separate floor. We even have our meals alone,” Van Zyl said. “We will follow the protocol here, and then decide when Wayde will next race.”

Van Niekerk had posted a video to his Instagram story during the week, where he was working on his start out of the blocks for the 100m, while he had recently told former 400m world record-holder Michael Johnson in a BBC interview that he was aiming to break 43 seconds in the one-lap event.

He also told Italian website atleticalive.it ahead of Saturday’s event: “Trieste is my first race of the summer season. I am looking forward to it and am excited to see how my body feels in a race situation. It will be nice to turn your legs again.

“I will run in the 100 and 400, and it will be a nice indication to see how far I am in my training and what needs to be done to get a positive momentum towards 2021.”

The confusion about Van Niekerk’s “false positive” result had some impact on world championship bronze medallist Samaai missing out on the competition as well.

“We had to rush to Trieste to get to the meeting in time after we only got clearance to travel late on Saturday afternoon (just over 100km from Gemona). Ruswahl was not quite comfortable when he warmed up, and was about to compete when he decided to withdraw. We are all back in Gemona at our base, and everyone is healthy,” Van Zyl said.

The man who did make it on to the track was SA 110m hurdles record holder Alkana, who finished in fifth position in a time of 13.79.

@ashfakmohamed

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