Tearful Wayde says he deserves more respect

11 August 2017 - 10:10 By DAVID ISAACSON in London
The two-time 400m title holder Wayde van Niekerk ended the world championships in London in tears on Thursday night with the silver medal in the 200m.
The two-time 400m title holder Wayde van Niekerk ended the world championships in London in tears on Thursday night with the silver medal in the 200m.
Image: Gallo Images

Wayde van Niekerk will target another double at the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year‚ but this time doing the 100m-200m.

The two-time 400m titleholder ended the world championships in London in tears on Thursday night with the silver medal in the 200m.

Van Niekerk was two-hundredths of a second short of matching Michael Johnson’s double from 1995‚ a feat that will survive at least another two years‚ probably much longer.

This season Van Niekerk had broken Johnson’s 300m world best and 400m Diamond League record‚ but the 400m-200m double at a single championships was fractionally out of his reach.

It was a tight race with Turkey’s Azerbaijan-born Ramil Guliyev winning in 20.09sec — the slowest winning time since 2003 — and Van Niekerk edging Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago into bronze by one-thousandth of a second.

The South African‚ who raced six days in a row‚ said he would like to lower his 43.03 400m world record‚ but suggested he’s less likely to do it in major competitions going forward.

“The 400m‚ I’d love to have that as an individual event so I’d love to improve my world record again.

“The only doubles I think I would consider now is the 100m and 200m‚” he said.

Asked if that meant putting the 400m on the backburner‚ Van Niekerk replied: “I’ve been thinking of it. I’d love to do a bit of 100m and 200m at Commonwealth next year.”

The Games will be held in Gold Coast in April‚ 2018.

“But obviously (I’m) going to have to do some 400s as well at the Diamond Leagues and World Challenges and so on.

“We haven’t really thought that far‚ we’re all focusing on the double this week and I think after this season we’ll sit with coach (Ans Botha) and decide where we’re going to invest our time.”

Van Niekerk said the two hardest days were the 400m final on Tuesday and Wednesday’s 200m semifinals‚ where he had to qualify as one of the fastest losers.

“I had two days of freezing competition. Yesterday‚ I didn’t get much sleep because obviously I had a massive high after the 400m finals and then had to try and recover.

“The semifinals were difficult‚ I had to dig deep. Last night’s rest was much better‚ I wouldn’t say I recovered 100%‚ but I recovered quite well.”

Botha wept after hugging Van Niekerk several minutes after the 200m final‚ and the runner himself and his Botswana rival‚ sixth-placed Isaac Makwala‚ were in tears themselves too.

Makwala was barred from the 400m final after falling ill with a suspected case of norovirus‚ and accusations of a conspiracy soon emerged with claims the IAAF‚ the sport’s world governing body‚ was trying to protect Van Niekerk.

Olympic 400m champion Van Niekerk broke down during an interview with BBC soon after the race‚ telling them he deserved his success.

“That really did upset me a bit‚” he said explaining his emotional display at the post-race press conference later.

“Especially the amount of respect I’ve shown each and every competitor I compete against‚ including Makwala‚ and for him to come out and mention my name among something fishy happening in the IAAF … I think I definitely deserve way more respect from my competitors.”

Makwala‚ who ended sixth in this race‚ told journalists he felt the 400m was his best chance.

He broke down as he left the mixed zone‚ where journalists get to interview athletes‚ taking a full minute or so before moving on‚ still wiping his eyes.

For Makwala‚ it was his third championships and still no medal; this was also Van Niekerk's third championships‚ but this was his third medal.

SA now has five medals with a sixth likely from Caster Semenya in the 800m on Sunday.

- TimesLIVE

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