Van Niekerk ‘100 per cent ready’ for return after two-year lockdown

Paris, France: South African 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk says he is “100% ready” to hit the track again after two years spent on the sidelines with injury.

The Olympic and two-time former world 400m champion damaged knee ligaments in October 2017 while playing in a celebrity touch rugby match that preceded a South Africa-New Zealand Test in Cape Town.

His recovery included time at medical facilities in the United States and Qatar, and there were several setbacks, including bruising of the knee.

“There were days when I couldn’t walk,” Van Niekerk told the Paris edition of the Diamond League Call Room in an interview set to air on social media on Saturday.

The Cape Town native has slowly come back to the track, his most recent outing a victory in the Free State provincial championships 400m race in Bloemfontein in March, his fourth such low-key race.

Van Niekerk said he had learned to differentiate between “bad pain when I am on the brink of injuring myself and pain where I just need a day or two of rest and recovery”.

“I had to listen to my body more and I thank my coaches for listening to me when I am in that situation.”

Van Niekerk, who ran the world record of 43.03 seconds when winning 400m gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, added: “My body is feeling good.

“I have had time to allow my knee to get used to that ‘on your marks’ feeling.”

His recent outings had given him a “massive confidence boost to know that I still have my speed”.

“Now I just need to puzzle everything back together again to run the 400m successfully.”

The coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with the track and field season, with a number of elite Diamond League meets cancelled. The Tokyo Olympics were also postponed a year to 2021.

But Van Niekerk argued that it was perhaps easier for him to accept the thought of not competing.

“I have been in a two-year lockdown hibernation vibe anyway with my injury!”

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