Wayde van Niekerk, the Olympic and world 400m champion and world-record holder, will miss next month’s world championships. He has been essentially sidelined from competition for two years since tearing a meniscus and ACL in a celebrity tag rugby match.
“I’m still positive and I’m just taking things day by day, respecting all the calls made by the doctor and respecting my body,” Van Niekerk, who has resumed training, said in a statement. “For now I’m not rushing myself or putting pressure on myself. I’m extremely happy and at peace with where I am.”
Van Niekerk, who ran 43.03 at the Rio Olympics to break Michael Johnson‘s world record, had hoped to return in full this season, but a knee bone bruise set him back.
Van Niekerk made a low-key return at a meet in South Africa on Feb. 28, clocking 47.28 seconds. That’s his lone meet since he won the 400m and took 200m silver at the August 2017 World Championships, according to Tilastopaja.org.
Van Niekerk would have been a clear underdog had he entered worlds in Doha that start in three weeks.
American Michael Norman ran the sixth-fastest 400m in history on April 20, a 43.45 that was also the fastest ever run before the month of June. Van Niekerk has broken 43.45 just once, in that Rio Olympic epic. He and Norman have never raced head-to-head.
It looks like the Rio Olympic 400m silver and bronze medalists will both be absent from worlds.
Grenada’s Kirani James, who has not raced since July 2018 and has been out with Graves’ Disease, must race by Saturday to be eligible for worlds. Representatives for James and Grenada’s federation have not responded to requests for comment on his status.
American LaShawn Merritt has raced once since June 2, 2018,and has not raced a 400m since bowing out of the 2017 World Championships in the semifinals.
The U.S. has the six fastest 400m runners this season.
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