Wayde van Niekerk finished last in the men’s 400m final in what was a miserable World Athletics Championships for the world record holder in Budapest, on Thursday.
Like his semi-final, Van Niekerk faded in the final 100m as his push for a medal never materialised. Instead, he finished eighth in a time of 45.11 seconds. Jamaican Antonio Watson won gold in 44.22, Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith claimed silver in 44.31 and American Quincy Hall completed the podium with bronze in 44.37.
This season, Van Niekerk had been back to his best as he has lifted his world ranking back to number one. The 31-year-old boasts a season’s best of 44.08 seconds, which was the fastest of the eight athletes competing in the final.
However, Van Niekerk only barely made it through to the final as he missed out on an automatic qualifying spot as he finished third in his semi-final heat in a time of 44.65.
In that semi, Van Niekerk struggled down the final straight as American Vernon Norwood came powering past him. It meant a nervous wait for Van Niekerk, as he would turn out to be one of the two fastest non-automatic qualifiers for the final.
Certainly Van Niekerk would have been keen to forget that race as he looked ahead to the final, as he remembered just how he was able to run 43.03 when he set the new world mark in the final at the Rio Olympics.