South African 400m Olympic and world champion, Wayde van Niekerk, says he is ready to return to world class racing after tearing his ACL in a charity rugby match in November 2017 and subsequently being sidelined by injury for over two years. The runner—who also owns a world championships silver medal in the 200m—told the Olympic Channel that he is back to training and ready to go all in for the 2021 Olympics and a shot at breaking his 400m world record of 43.03.
Before his season was put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, van Niekerk won three races in South Africa at two separate meets. He ran a 10.10-second 100m and 20.31 in the 200m on February 22, and a week later he won a 400m race, posting a 47.42. These times were all far off his PBs of 9.94 for the 100m, 19.84 in the 200m and 43.03 for the 400m, but they were his first competitive runs in two years, and now that races are cancelled until further notice, he has more time to build his fitness and return to where he was before his injury.
“If you ask me in what way the best Wayde van Niekerk is still to come? I still want to improve my 400m, 100m, 200m, 300m times, meaning overall I still believe I can do better,” he told the Olympic Channel. “I am hungrier than before.”
Wayde van Niekerk has his sights set on a sub-43 400m in 2021.
He spoke exclusively to us about his ongoing training, mental strength after his 2017 injury, and "unfinished business" at the Olympics.
— Olympic Channel (@olympicchannel) April 16, 2020
In the 2016 Olympics in Rio, van Niekerk set the current 400m world record to win the gold medal. When racing resumes, he wants to be the first runner to dip below 43 seconds in the 400m.
“If I don’t go sub-43 that means I am not growing,” he said. “There’s no other goal than the sub-43 right now. That’s what I am working for and that’s where I want to be at.” Although he still isn’t at that level, his runs earlier this year gave him confidence that he can achieve this goal as he moves forward.
Was fun racing again.
— Wayde van Niekerk (@WaydeDreamer) March 2, 2020
“The fact that I showed some signs of speed again really gave me a good feel.”
If van Niekerk can reach the level he’s aiming for, the track world will have an exciting season of racing ahead as he works toward another Olympic Games.