Wins first race 16 months after injury
Exactly 16 months and 16 days after seriously injuring his right knee, Wayde van Niekerk, the world and Olympic champion and record-holder in the 400 m, made a successful comeback to the track over the weekend.
His participation in the Free State Championship on Saturday (23 February 2019) was the former Kovsie sprinter’s first competitive race, which ended in a victory for the 26-year-old.
Van Niekerk won the 400 m in a time of 47,28 seconds. The former Marketing student still participates for the University of the Free State (UFS) Athletics Club.
According to his coach, Ans Botha, there is no immediate plans for a next race; this race only formed part of his training. They will be working towards the World Championships in September 2019, where he took gold in the 400 m at the previous two champs in 2017 and 2015.
The international sprint sensation picked up medial and lateral tears of the meniscus, as well as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while participating in a celebrity touch-rugby match back in October 2017.
He underwent surgery in the United States, followed by six months of rehabilitation in Doha under the watchful eye of Dr Louis Holtzhausen, well-known sports medicine physician. Holtzhausen was previously the head of the University of the Free State’s Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine. In second place in the 400 m on Saturday was Cornel Fredericks, a hurdles specialist. Fredericks, gold medallist in the 400 m hurdles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, is now also training under Botha.