Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

‘I feel strong’: Wayde van Niekerk makes big strides at SA Champs

Leandri Geel also produced a standout performance, breaking the South African record in the women's hammer throw.

Taking another step forward on the comeback trail, Wayde van Niekerk made a statement on Saturday, charging to an impressive victory at the SA Athletics Championships in Potchefstroom.

The world record holder clocked 44.17 seconds to win the men’s 400m final, outclassing 20-year-old prospect Lythe Pillay who set a personal best of 44.80 to grab the silver medal.

It was Van Niekerk’s fastest time in the 400m event since he injured his knee in 2017.

‘A massive jump’

“This is a massive jump for me and hopefully I’ll continue going from strength to strength,” Van Niekerk said.

“My body feels strong and I’m handling the rounds well.  There’s a holistic package I’m working on and hopefully it will all come together at the World Championships later this year.”

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Meanwhile, Leandri Geel also produced a standout performance on the third and final day of the national championships, breaking the South African record in the women’s hammer throw.

Geel sent the hammer sailing out to 65.18 metres, adding 87 centimetres to the previous national mark of 64.31m set by Marga Cumming in 2021.

Though her performance was not spectacular by international standards, Geel did well to make further progress in one of SA’s weakest track and field disciplines.

“We really want to compete at international level, but those girls are averaging over 70 metres and we still need to get there,” Geel said.

“We really have to make sure we keep getting that SA record a little closer to that level.”

Double gold

Two athletes – middle-distance runner Prudence Sekgodiso and sprinter Miranda Coetzee – secured double gold in their events.

Made to compete in both finals on the same day after some of the programme had been postponed on day two due to a thunderstorm, Sekgodiso managed to retain both titles she won last year.

First she won the 1 500m final in 4:17.22, and then she returned to the track to take the 800m title in 2:03.92.

Coetzee was also superb, winning the women’s 400m final in a quick time of 51.04 and then taking the 200m gold medal in 22.74. She set personal bests in both events.

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