Defending champion Wayde van Niekerk bombed out in the 400m semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, crossing the line well off the pace as he fell short in his attempt to retain his title.
Van Niekerk, who set the world record (43.03 seconds) to win gold at the 2016 Rio Games, had struggled to find his best form after making a comeback from a serious knee injury last year.
And while he had spoken confidently of his chances ahead of the Games, after showcasing his form over shorter distances, he finished fifth in his one-lap semifinal in 45.14, with Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas winning the race in 44.14.
Van Niekerk was 0.52 outside the time required to progress to the final as a ‘fastest loser’.
“I am obviously very disappointed with the run,” Van Niekerk said.
“I expected way more from myself and it obviously didn’t work out the way I wanted, but it is what it is. We move forward.”
Meanwhile, though she did well to reach the penultimate round after making a comeback of her own this season, Wenda Nel trailed home in seventh place in 56.35 in her 400m hurdles semifinal.
She was eliminated ahead of the final in her specialist event.
The SA men’s water polo team produced their best performance of the Games, on the 10th day of competition, but they still had to settle for a 24-9 defeat to Japan.
They went without a win in the opening round and did not progress to the playoffs.