JOHANNESBURG – Double world champion Wayde van Niekerk’s season has come to an end due to a recurring back injury, and he will not line up in the Diamond League final in Zurich.
“This injury has plagued me throughout the summer, and I had to receive treatment from Dr (Hans-Wilhelm) Mueller-Wohlfahrt,” Van Niekerk said in a statement.
“Obviously you don’t want your competitors to know if you are struggling in any way, so I’ve kept it quiet until this point.”
Van Niekerk was South Africa’s top performer at the recent IAAF World Championships in London, where he retained his 400m title and added the 200m silver medal to his growing list of achievements.
Van Niekerk said he felt the back injury flare up again on his return to training this week.
The 400m world record-holder and his coach Ans Botha decided to withdraw from competition as a precaution in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in April.
He was set to line up in Zurich for a shot at becoming the IAAF Diamond League Champion, which comes with $50 000 in prize money.
“I am bitterly disappointed I won’t be competing in the last Diamond League event of the season as I haven’t won a Diamond League Final before, and was hoping to get my hands on one of the fiercely contested Diamond trophies,” Van Niekerk said.
“But we feel it is in my best interest to recover fully, in order to ensure I can take on the 2018 season in good health and at full strength.”
Van Niekerk also secretly battled back and hamstring injuries in the build-up to last year’s 400m final at the Rio Olympics, but he pushed through the pain to shatter American icon Michael Johnson’s long-standing world record, clocking 43.03 seconds.
After Rio, Van Niekerk received treatment for his injuries from renowned German doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt, who also had Jamaican world 100m and 200m record-holder Usain Bolt as a patient.
The Zurich race was billed as the 400m final that never happened at the world championships after Botswana’s Isaac Makwala was controversially withdrawn after showing symptoms of an infectious disease.
Makwala missed out on the 400m after he was placed under 48-hours quarantine following a confirmed outbreak of norovirus among athletes in the hotel he was staying at in London.
Conspiracy theorists suggested the IAAF’s withdrawal of Makwala from Monday’s 200m heats was part of a dubious scheme to give Van Niekerk an easy passage to the podium in both the 200m and 400m.
Although Makwala missed out on the 400m, he did feature in the 200m final where he finished in sixth place despite going into the championships with the fastest time this season.