Medically cleared, Isaac Makwala qualified for the 200m final at the world championships on Wednesday after missing the 200m heats and the 400m final due to a stomach virus.
The IAAF let Makwala back in the 200m one day after a controversy erupted over the Botswanan’s exclusion from the 400m final, where he was the top challenger to eventual winner Wayde van Niekerk. Makwala is the top-ranked 200m man this year, having run 19.77 seconds on July 14.
“I’m still running with heart broken,” Makwala said on the BBC after running a pair of 200m races in a 2-hour, 20-minute span on a rainy Wednesday evening in London. “I wish IAAF would take decision for me to run my 400m [final] first [on Tuesday]. I was ready to run the 400m. … 400m is the race that I’m training for, 200m I do sometimes.
“I’m running with anger. I still want my 400m. That’s my race. 400m is my race. … I wish to thank the IAAF for giving me another chance [in the 200m].”
Makwala was allowed to re-run the 200m heats, so he had to do so alone. Makwala needed to clock 20.53 seconds and did so easily, recording 20.20 and then doing five push-ups immediately afterward, proving he’s fit.
That earned Makwala a spot in the semifinals later Wednesday night. Out of lane 1, he finished second in his semifinal in 20.14, raising his right arm convincingly while crossing the finish line. He’s into Thursday’s final.
So is Van Niekerk, who was the last qualifier into the eight-man final via finishing third in his heat in 20.28 seconds.
The stomach virus that hit a number of athletes at the earlier in the week morphed into a full-fledged mess a few hours before the 400m final, when video surfaced of Makwala being escorted away from the athletes’ entrance to the stadium in London.
“I thought that was the end of my life and end of my career,” Makwala, 30, told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN on Wednesday. “I wanted to fight, you know, but in the end I said, just let this go and maybe we’ll come back.”
Makwala insisted he felt fine. But he vomited Monday before the 200m heats, and the IAAF said doctors checked him, determined he had norovirus and, per the recommendation of health regulators in Britain, told him he had to stay off the premises for 48 hours.
“I came here for a medal,” a healthy looking Makwala said in an interview with the BBC. “Some people force you to withdraw. I’m OK to run, but someone’s saying you can’t run. It’s a bad thing.”
The IAAF put out its own statement defending the decision, saying it “is very sorry that the hard work and talent of Isaac Makwala won’t be on display tonight but we have to think of the welfare of all athletes.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.