CAPE TOWN – CAPE TOWN – Wayde van Niekerk’s return to competitive racing has suffered another blow after he tested positive for Covid-19.
The Olympic champion is currently in Italy where he was supposed supposed to return to the track tonight in the 100m and 400m in Trieste.
However, journalist Franco Fava revealed in a tweet that Van Niekerk had tested positive and would not participate in the event.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, the Van Niekerk is currently in quarantine in Germona.
Wayde van Niekerk will not run 100 and 400 tomorrow, Saturday, at the Trieste meeting in Italy. He tested positive to Covid-19. The 400 WR holder arrived in Italy the 19 July for a training stage in Gemona del Friuli @insidethegames @WorldAthletics @FrancsJeux @Olympics
— Franco Fava (@FrancoFava2) July 31, 2020
The reigning 400m Olympic champion and world record-holder was set to return to the track following a long-term knee injury and a frustrating lockdown period.
Van Niekerk was joined by long jump star Ruswahl Samaai, 110m hurdler Antonio Alkana, and coaches Ans Botha (sprint) and Jenny Kingwill (long jump). They are expected to be based in Europe for the next three months.
It is understood that SA 100m champion Akani Simbine and his coach Werner Prinsloo will travel to Gemona soon as well.
Alkana will compete in the 110m hurdles in the Trieste event, while Samaai will take part in the long jump.
“I’m happy to be back in Gemona, which has become like a second home to me,” the Team South Africa website quoted Van Niekerk as saying.
“I’m grateful to be healthy, and I’m hoping to get in a few races if possible, as we start to prepare for a full return to competition when coronavirus restrictions allow.”
Van Niekerk hasn’t run much since a knee injury in a touch rugby match at Newlands in 2017, which saw him miss the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
But he showed positive signs in a few local meetings in South Africa this year, clocking 10.11 in the 100m and 20.31 in the 200m, while he posted 47.42 in wet conditions in the 400m at the Free State championships.
Van Niekerk posted an Instagram video this week which showed him on the track in Gemona. He specifically worked on his start out of the blocks for the 100m – a distance in which he wants to improve his personal best of 9.94.
He also aims to get better in the 200m (personal best of 19.84), but he told former 400m world record-holder Michael Johnson in a BBC interview this week that he is aiming for a new world record in the one-lap event.
Van Niekerk produced the current 400m mark of 43.03 in the 2016 Rio Olympics final, shattering Johnson’s time of 43.18, set at the 1999 world championships in Seville.
“It’s (a new world record) definitely a priority for me, because why am I still here if I’m not seeking growth?” Van Niekerk said.
“Growth should be improving my times within the 42-second range. That’s where my mind is at; that’s where my heart is at.
“Seeing you (Johnson) set a standard of setting a record of 17 years – I want to double that.
“That’s just the competitor in me, and for me to settle for anything less than that would mean I’m doing an injustice to myself and the team working for me.”