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Botswana’s Isaac Makwala runs bizarre solo 200m in London

He qualifies in unusual fashion after being barred from the stadium on Tuesday, then does pushups on the finish line to show his fitness in the strangest storyline thus far at the IAAF World Championships

Sprinter Isaac Makwala was finally allowed to run on Wednesday, and got the entire track to himself.

The Botswana runner was physically barred from even entering the stadium, much less competing in the 400m final on Tuesday evening in London. But the IAAF granted him a special qualification race, where he bizarrely took to the track alone, running in lane seven, to see if he could qualify by time for the 200m semifinal. 

Makwala is one of many athletes who had contracted a norovirus while staying at one of the official race hotels. He was prohibited by a doctor from competing for 48 hours, forcing him to skip the 200m heats and 400m final.

A norovirus, often called the “winter vomiting bug,” is a common GI virus that causes intense vomiting and diarrhea. It’s spread through food or beverages contaminated with fecal matter infected with the virus, or by contact with someone whom is a carrier.

Makwala protested the quarantine from competing in the 400m final, where he was a medal favourite and video showed him being turned away at the stadium gates when his credential was temporarily revoked. 

In a statement released on Wednesday, the IAAF made a special exemption for Makwala allowing him to run a solo time trial before the evening session began. He had to run 20.53 seconds to move on to the semifinal, which will be held at 8:55 p.m. local time in London.

The IAAF statement read:

The IAAF has received a written request from the Botswanan federation for Isaac Makwala to compete in the 200 metres.

Given his quarantine period expired at 14:00 hrs today (9 Aug) and following a medical examination which has declared him fit to compete, we have agreed under our existing rules that assuming he makes the qualification time, he will run in the 200m semi-final round this evening.

Makwala is required to run a time of 20.53 or faster to advance to the semi-finals. He will run at 18:40hrs this evening on his own in lane 7, which was his original lane draw in the opening round.

No athletes already qualified for the semi-final will be adversely affected.

The norovirus has plagued up to 30 athletes at the IAAF World Championships, after the Tower Hotel was identified as the epicentre of the illness. Canada’s Eric Gillis was forced to drop out of the marathon with about 10K to go after battling GI issues attributed to the illness. Team Canada was forced to relocate in order to avoid any further illnesses.

As the train poured down on him, Makwala impressed the semi-filled stadium, cruising through in 20.20.

To show that he’s fit and ready, Makwala even hit the track for a few pushups following his qualifying run, adding the the strange nature of the event.