Wayde van Niekerk ’trusts the process’ as he makes his comeback
CAPE TOWN - “TRUST the process. I am building on something completely different.”
That is what Wayde van Niekerk posted on Twitter after emerging victorious in the 200m at the Athletics South Africa Invitational in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
And didn’t he just have to “trust the process” in that race. His good mate Akani Simbine had taken him head-on, blasting out of the blocks to create a lead over the first 100 metres.
Just as it looked as if Van Niekerk had caught up with him at the bend, though, Simbine put in another forward spurt.
At that point, it looked like the 100m star had enough gas to go all the way, but while Van Niekerk kept going at a consistent pace, Simbine began slowing down and the 400m Olympic champion sauntered ahead in the last 10 metres.
Van Niekerk had to “trust the process” at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium. He could easily have panicked after seeing Simbine take the lead, but he kept calm and didn’t push himself unnecessarily.
The time of 20.10 seconds was a terrific one from Van Niekerk at this stage of the season. He is on a new course of action, having left the stable of long-time coach Ans Botha in Bloemfontein and joining American Lance Brauman.
While he is still awaiting clearance documentation to link up with Brauman – who also has 200m world champion Noah Lyles in his group – in Florida, Van Niekerk told the media present at the track on Tuesday that he has already taken instruction from his new mentor, which is why he has yet to run a 400m race this year.
It is all about building up his speed at the moment, and that will take on another dimension once he is training and racing with Lyles in the United States and in the upcoming Diamond League meetings, which starts in Rabat, Morocco on 23 May and continues to 13 July in London before the Tokyo Olympics.
Of course he wants to reclaim the gold medal he won in Rio in 2016, but perhaps an even bigger goal for Van Niekerk this year is to achieve what no other athlete has before – setting a new world record by running a sub-43 second time in the 400m.
That is why the building blocks that he is putting in place at the moment are so important to the 28-year-old. He already did the first part by getting his body into optimum shape during the lengthy off-season, with competitions delayed due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
And while he is still not sure whether he will take part in the national championships from 15-17 April – he said on Tuesday that he will do “whichever comes first” between being cleared to travel to the US or running in Pretoria – Van Niekerk is back on track, literally and figuratively, with these two 200m races in South Africa.
It seems like he is going to be even better prepared for the Tokyo Games this year compared to Rio – and we know what happened then.