Wayde van Niekerk, the Olympic and world 400m champion and world-record holder, will not race in 2018 as he continues to work his way back from October meniscus and ACL tears.
“There’s no way he’s going to compete this year,” Van Niekerk’s agent said Wednesday, confirming a Daily Mail report. “His rehab is going great. He’s in really good shape. The injury is healed properly and all that, but between the coach and himself, we’re not going to let him race this year. There’s no major championships this year or anything.”
Van Niekerk is expected to return to normal training on the track in July, his agent said.
This is the one year in the four-year Olympic cycle without a world outdoor championships or Olympic Games. Van Niekerk has already missed one of the biggest competitions of 2018, last month’s Commonwealth Games. The Diamond League regular season will be past the midway point once Van Niekerk returns to training, so sitting out the rest of the year is hardly a surprise.
Van Niekerk, who last raced Aug. 10, suffered the knee injuries in a celebrity tag rugby match on Oct. 7 and underwent surgery.
“His coach wasn’t happy about that [it happening at a tag rugby match],” Van Niekerk’s agent said then. Van Niekerk is famously coached by Ans Botha, a great-grandmother.
Before the injury, Van Niekerk was hoping to race both the 100m and 200m at the Commonwealth Games after attempting a 200m-400m double at the 2017 World Championships (earning gold in the 400m and silver in the 200m).
Van Niekerk is the only man in history to run sub-44 for the 400m, sub-20 for the 200m and sub-10 for the 100m.
He was well off his best times at 2017 Worlds, winning the 400m in 43.98 seconds, albeit decelerating near the finish with the race easily won. In Rio, Van Niekerk clocked the world record 43.03.
And in the 200m, Van Niekerk was overtaken by Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev in the final straightaway, losing by .02. He recorded 20.11, well off the 19.84 he ran two months earlier, albeit Van Niekerk could have been significantly slowed by exhaustion at worlds.
Van Niekerk, who turns 26 on July 15, may still have time on his side. Michael Johnson‘s fastest 400m time came at nearly age 32.
In Van Niekerk’s absence, a new star may be emerging. Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas ran 43.87 on May 4, the second-fastest time ever that early in a year. Gardiner then clocked 43.99 last Saturday, becoming the first man to break 44 seconds twice in a season before June.
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Don't get too excited. Wayde Van Niekerk is not turning to rugby! It's a celeb tag rugby match at Newlands, ahead of the Springboks vs All Blacks game featuring our own coaches Neil Powell and Paul Stephen Delport and junior high jump champ Breyton Poole (who I mistook as a security guard at #Newlands on Saturday!) (Pic: Roger Sedres)