Wayde van Niekerk made a solid start but at around the 150-metre mark, with about 16.5 seconds gone on the clock, the 28-year-old started to grimace and then pulled up almost totally.
CAPE TOWN – Disaster struck Wayde van Niekerk on Sunday night at the Adidas Boost Games in Boston when he pulled up with an injury close to the finish line in his 200m race.
This was the 2016 Rio Olympic 400m champion’s first race in the United States since moving to America earlier this month to train with new coach Lance Brauman.
Van Niekerk was running hard in the unusual setting in Boston, with the five-lane 200m straight track laid down on Boylston Street.
It was a warm, although windy day in the city, with the temperature reaching a high of 31 degrees Celcius, and it was still forecast to be at 27 degrees when the 200m took place at 5.37pm local time (11.37pm SA time).
Van Niekerk made a solid start, taking a while to get into his stride, but being close to the lead alongside British athlete Zharnel Hughes. But at around the 150-metre mark, with about 16.5 seconds gone on the clock, the 28-year-old started to grimace and then pulled up almost totally.
He still jogged across the finish line, and ended fourth with a time of 20.86 seconds, with Canadian Jerome Blake winning with a new personal best of 19.89. Hughes also produced a PB of 19.93, with Aldrich Bailey Jnr of the US third in 20.45, with another American in Jaron Flournoy fifth and last with 20.87.
But after finishing his race, Van Niekerk hobbled a bit, favouring his left leg. He went to sit down and removed his neon green spikes quickly, and then spoke to his coach Brauman – where he held and pointed to his pelvic area, almost as if to indicate he felt something there.
He eventually limped away, with Brauman in tow.
It is a huge blow to his chances of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. He has not yet posted a good-enough time in either the 200m – where his 20.10 season’s best was a wind-assisted effort – or 400m, which he has yet to run in 2021.
Van Niekerk said during a pre-event press conference on Saturday that he had been training well at his new base in Florida.
“It’s been a very good last two weeks in the US, being welcomed by the Pure Athletics group. I’m very excited,” he was quoted as saying on the World Athletics website.
“There have definitely been positive steps, especially the race in Gauteng (which he won in a marginally wind-assisted 20.10) because that had a great line-up. It gave me a massive boost.
“It’s been a good start to the year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do this weekend, taking it step by step until the Olympic Games.”