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Van Niekerk sneaks through backdoor into 200m final

Van Niekerk

By Mark Etheridge

Less than 24 hours after winning his second IAAF World Championships 400-metre title, South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk gave himself a shot at the 200/400m double in London on Wednesday.

But it was oh so close in the semi-finals as only the first two in each of the three races booked their places automatically… and Van Niekerk was only good for third on the night.

He ran a 20.28sec for third spot as Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev and American Ameer Webb filled the first two spots in 20.17 and 20.22.

On a cold, wet and windy night Van Niekerk did just enough to do the job, the slowest of eight men into the final.

In his defence, not that he’d ever ask for one, was the fact that he was the only athlete to have had a recent 400m in his legs.

Spare a thought for Van Niekerk’s continental counterpart though, as Isaac Makwala sneaked through the back door.

After missing the 200m heats through a stomach virus, meeting organisers gave the Botswana a get-out-of-jail card and he was allowed a solo heat about an hour earlier, with a 20.53 target to sneak into the semis.

He didn’t allow that chance to escape and splashed to a 20.20 qualifier.

In the first of the semi-finals he went through automatically in 20.14, just 0.02sec behind American Isiah Young (20.12).

So it’s game on come Thursday evening as Van Niekerk bids to become the first man to do the golden 200/400m double at World Championships since Gothenburg, Sweden 32 years ago.

His countryman Akani Simbine won’t be part of the final though as he ran 20.62 in the first semi-final.

Going into Thursday’s final Van Niekerk is still the second quickest over the half-lapper this year with his 19.84 best. Only Makwala’s 19.77 is quicker but will the Botswana athlete’s illness and two sprints in the space of just over an hour take it’s toll.

Only time will tell… more SA athletics history is in the making at 10.50pm SA time on Thursday.

Picture of Van Niekerk on his way to qualifying for the 200m final courtesy of Michael Steele/Getty Images and that of Simbine courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA


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