CAPE TOWN – “Back to business.” That was how Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk announced his long-awaited return to the track on Monday following a frustrating 2020.
The 400m world record-holder will participate in the Gala dei Castelli event in Bellinzona, Switzerland on Tuesday for his first race since the coronavirus brought an abrupt halt to the athletics scene earlier this year.
The 28-year-old was set to hit the track in Trieste, Italy on August 1 in the 100m and 400m, but was withdrawn at the last moment as a precautionary measure following a positive test for coronavirus, which had been preceded by three negative tests. Van Niekerk had another negative result following the positive one, but rather opted to be cautious.
What followed was a bit of a nightmare as Van Niekerk went into isolation for nearly a month as he awaited clearance from Italian authorities to compete again, despite being asymptomatic throughout.
But now he is ready to run again, and took to Twitter on Monday and posted “Back to business”.
He will line up in the 400m at 8.10pm South African time on Tuesday, where after he will go back to South Africa to begin his long-term build-up for the Tokyo Olympics – where he hopes to become the first athlete to break the 43-second barrier.
— Wayde van Niekerk (@WaydeDreamer) September 14, 2020
“My body is in good health, which I’m grateful for, and I’m looking forward to racing again,” Van Niekerk said in a statement.
“We don’t have any goals for the meeting. I’m just excited to see how my body feels again in a race situation, and it will be nice to loosen up the legs.
“It will give us a good indication of where I am in my training, after having to spend 25 days in isolation, and we can then focus on what needs to be done to gain some momentum towards the 2021 season.”
Three other South Africans will also be part of the Swiss event – 100m star Akani Simbine, who will look to make it a hat trick of wins in Europe this season, long-jumper Ruswahl Samaai (aiming for four victories in a row), and 110m hurdler Antonio Alkana.