Though he admits his long-term focus is on next year’s Tokyo Olympics, sprinter Wayde van Niekerk believes he will be ready to put up a fight in search of his third straight 400m title at the World Championships in Doha later this season.
Van Niekerk eased his way back into competition last week, turning out in his first official race in 18 months after recovering from a serious knee injury.
He clocked 47.28 seconds to win the Free State provincial one-lap title, and while he later referred to the effort as a “training run”, he was pleased to be back on the track.
“My first 200m was extremely rusty, just trying to find my feet again and find my momentum, but once I got that momentum it really just gave me the confidence that I can stay in it for an entire 400m,” Van Niekerk said on Thursday, after the announcement of an extended deal with sponsor T-Systems.
“It sparked a bit more focus and motivation, and we identified some key areas that need to be worked on.”
It was unclear when Van Niekerk would open the taps in his first hard race, but the 400m world record holder admitted he had some work to do to get back to his best.
“Mentally I feel very strong but physically I still need to invest quite a bit,” he said.
“I just need to be a bit more patient, allow the physical to catch up with the mental, and wait for the fireworks.”
He remained confident, however, that he would be able to produce a challenge at the biennial global championships in September.
“I think things are going my way,” he said.
“It’s going quite well and my team is very patient with me, so I honestly believe I’ll be able to compete quite well there.”