'I’m excited. Finally I can look forward to a possible 4 x 400m' - van Niekerk pleased with SA 400m
Wayde van Niekerk says 400m sprinting in South Africa is in a good place. The World Record holder (43.03) was back in the country to take part in the Athletics South Africa Senior Track & Field Championships where he won his first national 400m title since 2016. Running in the colours of Boland Athletics at the McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom, van Niekerk rolled back the years to cross the finish line in 44.17 - he's fastest clocking in almost six years.
Defending champion Zakhithi Nene was fourth (45.47), 2019 SA Champ and World University Games bronze medalist Gardeo Isaacs took the bronze (45.15) with the ever-improving reigning World Junior Champions Lythe Pillay taking the silver medal in a personal best 44.80. Pillay, Isaacs and Nene's performances have left the 2016 Olympic Champion positive about what Team South Africa could do at the World Championships in Budapest in the 4x400m relay in August.
"That’s why I ran what I ran today. I wouldn’t have run a race like that if I thought the competition was easy. I’ve got a lot of respect for them. I’m excited. Finally I can look forward to a possible 4 x 400m because we finally have guys that can challenge the best in the world. So let’s see how it goes," he told journalists moments after setting the track alight in the North West Province.
Nene who represented the country at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be back in action at the first of three ASA Grand Prix meets in Pretoria this evening. The 25-year-old from KwaZulu-Natal will take on Botswana's Isaac Makwala - a decorated athlete who has won the Commonwealth title and a Diamond League final in a career spanning nearly two decades.
In the women's 400m race at the Tuks Athletics Stadium Zeney van der Walt will test her flat speed in a race against another dangerous athlete from Botswana - Lydia Jele. 22-year-old van der Walt who took a bronze medal in her specialist 400m hurdle event at last year's Commonwealth Games has enjoyed a good start to 2023. She defended her national title 400mH title in a lightening fast 54.82, just a few weeks after setting a new 400m flat personal best of 51.41.
"The goal was to win SA’s but with that came a World Championships qualifying time so I’m very happy with that. So I’m really excited for the season ahead with ASA Grand Prix’s and the continental tour in Botswana - we have a list of events coming up. it’s nice to know that we have lots of competitions after nationals because then we can sharpen up on what we did at nationals," she said.