JOHANNESBURG - A long and winding road to recovery lies ahead for Wayde van Niekerk after surgery on his damaged knee at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado, on Tuesday was declared a success
Van Niekerk will be out of action for up to six months, but he will be treated by some of the best minds in sports medicine.
The 400m world champion went under the knife in Colorado, with world-renowned complex knee specialist Dr Robert LaPrade overseeing the operation.
Van Niekerk's agent Peet van Zyl said the athlete faced a long recovery and rehabilitation process before he would make his return to the track.
“There is no rush, he just needs to do the rehabilitation and he will stay in Colorado for little over two weeks for the first (phase) of intense rehab before he flies again,” Van Zyl said.
Van Niekerk will return to South Africa for a short stint before travelling to Doha to consult Dr Louis Holtzhausen, who looked after Wayde for many years in Bloemfontein.
“He will do the rest of his rehab in Doha with Doc Louis for a good four to six weeks before he goes on honeymoon,” Van Zyl said.
“The operation had to happen, so we decided to get the wedding out of the way before going for going under the knife.”
It has been a whirlwind couple of days for Van Niekerk, who married girlfriend Chesney Campbell on Saturday before he jetted off to the United States.
Van Niekerk sustained medial and lateral tears of the meniscus, as well as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a celebrity tag rugby match - a curtain-raiser to last month’s Test between the Springboks and the All Blacks at Newlands in Cape Town.
The injury effectively rules him out of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, in April where he planned to race the 100m and 200m sprint distances and would also have been a crucial member of a 4x100m relay team.
“I was looking forward to competing in the 100m and 200m events in Gold Coast, and participating at the national championships in March, so this is unfortunate timing,” Van Niekerk said in a release.
“But this is sport and these things happen. I trust that the team I have around me, including the medical professionals, will make this process as smooth as possible.”
Van Zyl said they had sent scans of Van Niekerk knee to his renowned German doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt, who also has Jamaican world 100m and 200m record-holder Usain Bolt as a patient.
Mueller-Wohlfahrt referred Van Niekerk to LaPrade, who he believed was the best in his field and would give the South African the best chance of recovery.
“We sent him (Mueller-Wohlfahrt) the scans and he immediately said he could do the operation but considering who Wayde is and his stature in world athletics, he needs the best in the world to operate on him,” Van Zyl said.
“We want to improve his chances of success; he then phoned Dr LaPrade, who said come as soon as possible.”