Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk’s latest comeback was halted on Saturday after health and safety officials blocked his entry to a track and field meeting in Italy due to a coronavirus scare.
The 28-year-old sprinter had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week, though he had shown no symptoms, and tests on everyone else at a South African training camp in Gemona had returned negative results for the respiratory disease.
“Wayde has trained well the whole week,” said athlete manager Peet van Zyl, who had organised the camp at Van Niekerk’s regular European base.
The small SA contingent had gone for another full round of testing – including Van Niekerk, long jumper Ruswahl Samaai, hurdler Antonio Alkana and Van Niekerk’s 78-year-old coach Ans Botha – and all results were negative.
Van Niekerk, who had been in Italy for two weeks, subsequently received a provisional green light to compete in his first international race since August 2017 after shaking off a long-term knee injury.
In a final screening step, however, a blood test revealed anti-bodies, and he was withdrawn from the men’s 400m race, scheduled to be held on Saturday night at the Triveneto Meeting in Trieste.
In his absence, compatriot Samaai was expected to compete in the men’s long jump, and Alkana was in the line-up for the men’s 110m hurdles race, while Danel Holton was in the women’s 400m contest.