Wayde van Niekerk to compete overseas at last‚ and then return home

Wayde van Niekerk during the 2020 Free State Track and Field Championships.
Wayde van Niekerk during the 2020 Free State Track and Field Championships.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

Wayde van Niekerk will make his long-awaited international comeback in Switzerland on Tuesday — more than a month after his planned return was derailed by a positive test for Covid-19.

The Olympic 400m champion hasn’t raced abroad since 2017‚ just before he injured his right knee while playing a celebrity game of tag rugby at Newlands in Cape Town. 

Van Niekerk‚ who had a couple of low-key races in Bloemfontein last year and this year‚ takes part in the 400m at Gala dei Castelli meet in Bellinzona‚ his management team said in a statement on Monday. 

“My body is in good health‚ which I’m grateful for‚ and I’m looking forward to racing again‚” said Van Niekerk. “We don’t have any goals for the meeting. I’m just excited to see how my body feels again in a race situation‚ and it will be nice to loosen up the legs.

“It will give us a good indication of where I am in my training‚ after having to spend 25 days in isolation‚ and we can then focus on what needs to be done to gain some momentum towards the 2021 season.”

Van Niekerk had to isolate for more than three weeks at his training base in Gemona‚ Italy‚ after what his management said were a few positive tests for coronavirus‚ although he remained asymptomatic throughout. 

He was unable to train during that period. 

His teammates‚ coach Tannie Ans Botha and others in his entourage didn’t test positive. 

Van Niekerk‚ who is expected to return home after the meeting to continue his training there‚ will compete alongside on Tuesday sprinter Akani Simbine‚ long-jumper Ruswahl Samaai and hurdler Antonio Alkana.

Simbine and Alkana will also compete in the Rome Diamond League meet on Thursday.