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Wayde van Nierkerk ‘extremely thankful’ after journey to 400m final

South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk cools down after the men's 400m heats at the 2022 World Athletics Championships

South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk cools down after the men's 400m heats at the 2022 World Athletics Championships, Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, USA, 17 July 2022. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Jul 23, 2022

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Cape Town – It wasn’t quite the fairytale comeback, but Wayde van Niekerk ran his heart out in the 400m final at the world athletics championships on Friday night (Saturday morning SA time).

Van Niekerk lined up in lane seven, and entered the race with good confidence after solid performances in the heat and semi-final.

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Considering his injury problems since 2017, it was a breakthrough moment for him to contend for a medal once more at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, as he stared down favourites such as American Michael Norman and former Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada.

The 30-year-old world record-holder made a superb start and was in the podium mix heading into the final straight. He eventually reached British athlete Matthew Hudson-Smith in third position, and it looked like the South African was going to claim a bronze medal.

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But as Norman (44.29 seconds) edged ahead of James (44.48) over the last 30 metres to secure his first title, Van Niekerk was unable to kick again and ended fifth in 44.97, behind bronze medallist Hudson-Smith (44.66) and a second American, Champion Allison (44.77).

The two-time world champion, though, was pleased with his effort.

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“It’s been a massive journey. I’m extremely thankful for all the positive support and backing,” Van Niekerk said on his social media channels afterwards.

“From continuous injuries, to doing light work just a few weeks ago and preventing any further harm to my body, to being the fifth fastest man over the 400m in the world and the fastest man in Africa…

“I feel more motivated and focused to get more than just a podium!!! We stay locked in for more, and give God the glory in our wins and loses[sic].”

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It was a moment to savour for the 24-year-old Norman, who had yet to clinch a medal at a major event despite boasting the joint fourth-fastest time in history of 43.45, as the home crowd cheered him to victory.

“It is an amazing feeling, for sure,” Norman was quoted as saying by the World Athletics website.

“Just to come out here, on let’s say a home track, and pull out with a gold individual medal. It is going to be memorable. I want to remember what took me here and I am just thankful to everybody who supported me throughout the whole career.

“It will take some time to reflect (on) what it means to be a champion, and to understand what it takes to be better. I have to stay disciplined.

“I just wanted to make sure that I did everything that I could have possibly done to become the new world champion.”

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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