Wayde van Niekerk advanced to the 200m final. Photo: Reuters
Wayde van Niekerk advanced to the 200m final. Photo: Reuters
Akani Simbine was unable to qualify for the 200m final. Photo: AP
Akani Simbine was unable to qualify for the 200m final. Photo: AP

Phew! That was close... Wayde van Niekerk had the hearts of South Africans in their mouths for a few seconds as he crossed the line in third place in his 200m semi-final at the IAAF World Championships in London on Wednesday night.

His time of 20.28 seconds in rainy conditions meant that he was not an automatic qualifier, as only the top two are guaranteed a spot in the final.

But then when the two other fastest finishers from the previous semi-finals were checked, Van Niekerk had made it! He was second-last on the finalists' list, as the 400m world champion looked tired from having to race every day since Saturday in his bid to do the 200m-400m double.

Van Niekerk, normally so smooth around the bend, battled to produced that usual spurt forward that takes him out in front as his muscles tightened up on the back straight.

Instead it was American Ameer Webb who sped away off the bend, although Turkey's Ramil Guliyev came through in the last 50 metres to win in 20.17 seconds, with Webb second with 20.22.

But Van Niekerk kept pushing hard to the line in driving rain, and his 20.28 was just enough to be the second "fastest loser" ahead of Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre (20.30), so his double journey is still on track.

Unfortunately the 25-year-old won't have a day off to rest those aching muscles, though, as the 200m final will take place on Thursday night at 10.52pm SA time.

His compatriot Akani Simbine, though, missed out on a place in the 200m final.

Simbine ended seventh in the first semi-final in 20.62, well behind American winner Isiah Young (20.12), and Botswana's Isaac Makwala, who finished second in 20.14.

Both Young and Makwala qualified automatically for the final, with the two top in each semi-final and then the next two fastest finishers going through to the medal decider.

Simbine made a strong enough start in the first 100m, but once the field hit the bend, it was Makwala who sped away in lane one.

It looked like the southern African won the race, but he was pipped on the line by Young.