The World Athletics Championships get underway this wekeend and Wayde van Niekerk will be strong medal contender with the likes Akani Simbine and Kyle Blignaut in the mix.
Wayde van Niekerk is already in Budapest to spearhead Team South Africa’s challenge at the World Athletics Championships starting on Saturday.
The Rio Olympics champion and 400m world record holder looks in good shape to bring home a medal, following South Africa’s duck at last year’s event in Eugene, Oregon.
South Africa will be represented by a full-strength team of 36 athletics at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest between 19-27 August.
Let's get behind them! pic.twitter.com/2X18LeUeRB
— Athletics_SA (@AthleticsSA_) August 12, 2023
We take a look at Van Niekerk and other possible SA medal contenders:
Marione Fourie (100m hurdles)
The 21-year-old Tuks athlete has been in incredible form over the last few months. She broke Taylon Bieldt’s SA record by clocking 12.55s in Switzerland in early July and can most certainly go quicker.
Fourie is ranked 16th in the world this year, so a massive goal for her would be to reach the Budapest final. The eighth-ranked athlete in 2023 is American Alia Armstrong with 12.40, while another US star in Nia Ali leads the way on 12.30.
Kyle Blignaut (shot put)
The giant shot putter had an outstanding Tokyo Olympics in
2021 when he reached the final and finished sixth with a put of 21.00m, while his personal best is 21.21m.
Blignaut clinched a silver medal at the African championships last year with a 20.60m effort but injuries have made things difficult for him over the past few seasons.
He hasn’t been able to breach the 21m mark since 2021. In comparison, American superstar
Ryan Crouser’s world record stands at 23.56m, and he regularly goes over the 23m mark.
Shaun Maswanganyi (100/200m)
The University of Houston athlete broke through the two major barriers in both short sprints, clocking 9.91 and 19.99 in Austin, in June.
His 9.91 time ranks him joint10th in the 100m world list this year.
The 23-year-old ran 10.06 to claim a silver at the World University Games in early August and if he can handle the pressure of facing the three fastest athletes in 2023 in Zharnel Hughes (9.83), Ferdinand Omanyala (9.84) and Fred Kerley (9.88), he stands a real chance.
Akani Simbine (100m)
Despite his fastest time in 2023 being 9.92, Simbine has pulled off some excellent victories in the Diamond League.
The fact that he has beaten Kerley this year will fill the 29-year-old with real belief that he can finally break the medal hoodoo at the World Championships.
What will count in Simbine’s favour is the fact that he the occasion won’t be too big for him.
Another factor is that he is highly experienced in European conditions, compared to US contingent headed by Kerley. In fact, Simbine’s South African record of 9.84 was set in Hungary in 2021.
DREAMING OF RAIN: Van Niekerk, Simbine hold South Africa’s hopes of World Athletics Championships medals https://t.co/oaMGFztEx1
— Daily Maverick (@dailymaverick) August 15, 2023
Wayde van Niekerk (400m)
Are you ready for a 43-second time from the 400m world record holder?
Van Niekerk has steadily improved throughout 2023, clocking 44.95 to win the SA title, then running 44.17, 44.21, 44.38, 44.08 and 44.36. His last race was on July 23 in London, so he will be wellrested for the 400m heats.
His season’s best time of 44.08 gives him fourth place on the 2023 world list.
Van Niekerk has run well within himself this year, and it looks like he is primed for a big performance in Budapest to exorcise the ghosts of the injury-filled years since his last title in 2017.