Home Sport Wayde has plotted a new path to Olympic glory in Paris

Wayde has plotted a new path to Olympic glory in Paris

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Wayde van Niekerk will start his season by taking part in the 200m at the SA championships this week, which will take place at Pietermaritzburg’s Msunduzi Athletics Stadium.

Wayde van Niekerk showed signs of getting back to his best last year, clocking 44.08sec in what was his fastest time since his recovery from his knee injury. Picture: Jewel Samad, AFP

It’s a new year, and Wayde van Niekerk has a “new strategy” in place to regain Olympic glory in Paris later this year.

The 2016 Rio Olympic 400m champion missed out on the final at the Tokyo Games in 2021, having made it to the semi-finals following an injury-plagued build-up due to his well-publicised October 2017 mishap while playing touch rugby at the Newlands rugby stadium before a Springbok-All Black Test.

Van Niekerk showed signs of getting back to his best last year, clocking 44.08sec in what was his fastest time since his recovery from his knee injury – and also the fourth-quickest in the world last year, behind Steven Gardiner (43.74), Muzala Samukonga (43.91) and Rusheen McDonald (44.03).

Van Niekerk has been hard at work in training over the last few months in Cape Town, and recently headed back to the Florida training base of his coach Lance Brauman.

He will start his season by taking part in the 200m at the SA championships this week, which will take place at Pietermaritzburg from tomorrow.

“It’s going very well with Mr Van Niekerk. He is in excellent shape, and we will now see if it manifests on the track – so we are very excited,” his manager, Peet van Zyl, told Independent Newspapers yesterday.

“It was the coach’s decision (to do the 200m at the SA champs). He didn’t run in a 200m last year – everything last year was about just getting the man on the go again and in shape again.

“He produced good performances, and he was unbeaten in the Diamond League. Of course in the world champs, the wheels fell off a bit – but that’s just part of the game.

“We went back and assessed the season, and the coach, Wayde and myself chatted, and the coach worked out a new strategy for the new year – new plans that he feels now that he has worked more than a year with Wayde, and how he can get the best out of Wayde for Paris …

“The goal for Paris is the 400m, so it is all part of the plan for him to run the 200m at the SAs, and then after that he will go directly back to America. We will keep him there for a reasonable time until we let him race in Europe.”

Van Niekerk’s 200m personal best of 19.84 came in 2017, so he is unlikely to push too hard to dip under 20 seconds this weekend – although he is likely to square off with SA record holder Clarence Munyai, whose national mark stands at 19.69.

But it is all part of building up his physical and mental strength for the Paris Olympics, where his biggest challenge will be to get through the heats and semi-final unscathed in order to be fresh for the final.

To break his world record of 43.03 is still his ultimate goal, and training alongside the 2023 World Athlete of the Year, American sprinter Noah Lyles – who won three gold medals (in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay) at last year’s world championships – as part of Brauman’s group will hopefully inspire Van Niekerk to push himself to his previous heights.

“His head is in a good space, and he is very comfortable with his current situation and circumstances,” Van Zyl said.

“He could handle the one-day races very nicely (last year), but he said with the rounds and the pressure of the world champs and all that stuff, it all played a role (in his final performance).

“But we have gone and taken some stock, and worked out a new strategy and plan that coach Lance Brauman decided on, and Wayde has bought into it. So, we will go on, and look forward to Paris.

“There are a few factors that play a role: what you do in your practices – whether you focus more on speed or endurance.

“The coach is keeping his cards close to his chest. He doesn’t always share everything, but he does at least tell Wayde and I what he wants to do and why.

“There will be specific races and times that Wayde must run, and hopefully everything will result in the man being able to do what he must do in Paris.

“We will still decide exactly when and where he will run (in the US), and then he will go to Europe to run a few big meetings there before the Olympics.”

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