South Africa: Scary Night for SA in Budapest 2023

South Africa’s golden boy Wayde van Niekerk has scraped through to the 400m finals at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Van Niekerk finished third in his semi-final heat and had to wait to fill one of two non-automatic qualifying spots.

The world record holder, who has run 44.0 this season, shocked his fans when he ran 44.65, one of the slowest times he has recorded at this point in his path to recovery.

He injured his knee while playing touch rugby in 2017, almost ending his career.

Various misfortunes in the next heat including a hamstring injury on Steven Gardiner of Bahamas midway through his race, saved Van Niekerk and earned him a place in the finals.

Gardiner is the 2020 Olympic and 2019 world champion in the 400m.

Another South African 400m specialist, Zakithi Nene, did not qualify for the finals.

But there was more good news for South Africa on the track as Mzansi’s 100m hurdles queen, Marione Fourie, stormed into the semi-finals scheduled for Wednesday.

It was an unbelievable achievement against a tough world class field where former world record holder Keni Harrison set a new world leading time of 12.24 just to qualify for the finals.

But the evening belonged to Faith Kipyegon, the Kenyan 1500m specialist who ran a sub 3.50 this year to set a new world record.

Officially the greatest mid-distance runner of all time won the world championship gold for the third time.

And finally Africa was on top of the world as Moroccan steeplechase specialist Soufiane El Bakkali defended his world championship to claim gold, beating Lamecha Girma, the Ethiopian who set a new world record last month.

South Africans will be hoping the semis race has scared Van Niekerk enough for him to realise nothing less than a sub 44 will be enough to win gold in the finals.

“Things are moving in a positive direction. I have been able to train consistently. It is my fastest run in seven years and 44.0 shows that 43 seconds is possible,” said Van Niekerk when he set a meeting record in the Silesia Diamond League meeting.


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