Van Niekerk Welcomes Olympic Games Postponement

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Wayde van Niekerk

Olympic men’s 400m champion and world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk has said that he is trying to be “positive” about the postponement of Tokyo 2020, and that it will give him “more time to invest” in his career.

Van Niekerk has been recovering from a knee injury sustained in October 2017 – some two and a half years ago – in a celebrity touch rugby game.

The South African, who suffered a further injury setback last year, has only recently returned to a competition, winning a 100m race on grassat an unofficial university meet in Bloemfontein.

“I’m trying to see the positive in it,” he said of the postponement, announced on Tuesday by the IOC.

“I see it as more time to work, more time to prepare, more time to invest in the rest of my career.”

The Olympics were moved back to 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that has seen sport around the world come virtually to a stop.

A succession of athletes have been giving their reaction – the 10,000m world champion, Joshua Cheptegei, has said the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games to 2021 is “wise”.

British heptathlete and world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson said it was “heartbreaking”.

Van Niekerk said that for him, the Tokyo Games – whenever they happen – are just another part of his journey.

“I think Tokyo is really just a stepping stone to the entire legacy that I want to leave behind,” he said.

“This gives me more time to prepare, and more time to work and strengthen myself so that I can work and be in better shape for the Olympic games.

“As much as it’s a bit of a downer, having it not happen this year, it’s still happening and it’s still going to be another opportunity for us to showcase our talent and do our best in the sport. So I don’t see it as a total loss – I just see it as more time to work.”

Van Niekerk broke the Olympic and world 400m records set by American Michael Johnson in 1999 when he clocked 43.03 seconds at the Rio Games four years ago.

But the knee ligament injury he suffered in October 2017 saw him miss the Commonwealth Games the following year.

He made a winning return to action in a 400m race in the provincial Free State championship in February 2019, but missed the World Championships in September because of a bone bruise on the knee.