Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Wayde van Niekerk eyes World Champs podium: ‘I’ve got hope again’

"I just want to survive right now and overcome the strain my body has experienced, both physically and mentally, because I'm pushing barriers and challenging myself."

After displaying a return to form at the weekend, Wayde van Niekerk said he was confident he could reclaim the global 400m title at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest later this year.

Van Niekerk stopped the clock at 44.17 seconds to win gold at the SA Athletics Championships in Potchefstroom on Sunday — his fastest time since picking up a knee injury in 2017 — and he said afterwards he had his sights set on securing his third world title this season.

‘I’m glad to be healthy’

“I’ve tasted it and experienced it before, and I’d like to believe I’ll be on the podium again,” he said.

Though he was clearly in a better space, confirming he had completely recovered from injury, the former Olympic champion was not getting ahead of himself.

His season’s best on Saturday was more than a full second outside his world record (43.03) and he needs to make further strides to ensure he is in the sort of shape he’ll need to be in if he wants a gold medal in Budapest.

“I just want to survive right now and overcome the strain my body has experienced, both physically and mentally, because I’m pushing barriers and challenging myself,” he said.

“I’m glad to be healthy again and to have run a good time.”

Van Niekerk, who is based in the United States, admitted he had struggled to stay motivated during a lengthy period on the sidelines, and he was relieved to be back in form.

‘Very challenging’

“It was very challenging and very frustrating, so I’m grateful that I’ve put down a time that gives me hope,” he said.

Meanwhile, there was confusion created around a performance at the national championships which was believed to be a record.

Leandri Geel was delighted to have bettered the SA mark in the women’s hammer throw with her winning 65.18m heave on Saturday.

It was later revealed, however, that Phethisang Makhethe had broken the SA record with a 65.80m effort in the US in April last year but the time had not yet been submitted to statisticians for official record keeping.

Geel’s performance was the second best by a South African woman in the discipline.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits