Wayde van Niekerk wants World Championships schedule change for double

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Wayde van Niekerk wants the schedule for the World Track and Field Championships in London in August to be changed so he can better attempt to sweep the 200m and 400m.

The South African won the Rio Olympic 400m in 43.03 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson‘s world record.

Many track and field fans hope to see Van Niekerk race Usain Bolt for the first time this year, in what is expected to be Bolt’s last season before retiring.

That race doesn’t appear likely at the world championships. Bolt is not expected to contest the 200m at worlds or perhaps at all this season.

“[Coach Glen Mills] still wants me to do the double, but I’ve told him I would really like to just do the 100m, so at the start of the season we’ll decide exactly what, but that’s what’s on my mind,” Bolt said on Jamaican TV in September, according to Reuters.

Van Niekerk’s agent said Friday that there’s no chance the South African races the 100m or the 4x100m relay at worlds if he’s able to race the 200m and 400m.

“Wayde wants to try and double … but currently the program at world champs in London is not conducive to that,” Van Niekerk’s agent said. “We’re in conversations with the IAAF to see if there is any possibility to alter the program.”

The IAAF said later Friday that it hasn’t received any request to change the world championships schedule from South Africa’s track and field federation.

The current worlds schedule has the 200m first round taking place about two and a half hours before the 400m final. Van Niekerk said he plans to double regardless of if the schedule is changed, according to South Africa media.

Last year, the Olympic track and field schedule was changed to give Allyson Felix more time between the 200m and 400m. She ended up qualifying for only the 400m, missing the U.S. team in the 200m by .01 after an ankle injury.

Van Niekerk said he will enter 200m races during the spring and/or early summer to prepare. His personal best, 19.94 seconds from 2015, would have earned the silver medal behind Bolt’s 19.78 in Rio.

“I’ve made up my mind, that’s really what I want to do for this year,” Van Niekerk said in a South African TV interview published Thursday. “I’ve achieved so much in the 400m these last two years. I feel I want to put a new element or aspect into my athletics. I feel I want to invest a bit more in the 200m and the 100m without totally neglecting the 400m. So I want to continue improving myself in the 400m, but at the same time I want to get back to why I started track and field, and that was the 100m and 200m.”

Van Niekerk said it’s “bittersweet” that he “probably” won’t race the 4x100m relay at worlds, assuming South Africa qualifies a 4x100m team.

“We’ll see how many body feels, and if I’m willing to take that risk,” he said. “At the moment, I’m already trying a new challenge with the 200m and 400m. So I don’t believe I should take that extra bit of pressure for myself. Let’s first see how I do this year, and how I handle that, and we’ll decide about the 4x100m. But right now I really need to make up my mind on how I would like to take this year.”

As for his goals in 2017? Van Niekerk wants to set a personal best.

“It’s really just about that growth, that continuous growth,” he said. “I’d love to do better than what I’ve done last year. So, whatever times I’ve set up, or whatever times is under my name right now, it needs to fall.”

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