By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s Olympic champion, Wayde van Niekerk, boxed clever once again on Sunday as he booked his place in the World Championships 400-metre final in London.
After running the ‘slowest’ time of the heat winners (and the only heat winner not to dip under the 45sec barrier) on Saturday, Van Niekerk won the second of three semi-finals in a time of 44.22 seconds at the Olympic Stadium.
Only the first two finishers in each semi-final was guaranteed a place in the final, and Van Niekerk made sure he did the absolute bare necessity.
He was made to run an honest race, though, by fellow African Baboloki Thebe as the Botswana athlete hit the front going into the final straight.
But Van Niekerk took it all in his stride as he merely drew alongside and checked around to see where the rest of the field were.
In truth they were also-rans as Van Niekerk just edged ahead of Thebe by 0.10sec. Slowest time into the final was a 44.64sec!
Quickest? The impressive Steven Gardiner, who won the first semi-final in 43.89, the first time he’s ever gone under 44sec and in a national record to boot. Will that effort prove to be the lanky Bahamian’s undoing in Tuesday night’s final… time will tell.
In other Sunday evening action, South African record holder Antonio Alkana failed to break through to the final of the 110m hurdles.
He was off in heat three and ended fourth in 13.59sec as Hungarian Balazs Baji won in 13.23.
Also going no further than the semi-final was 100m sprinter Carina Horn. With a personal best of 11.06 she would know that it was going to take a superhuman effort to make it into the final.
She took sixth in 11.26 as Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson won in 10.84 to make the final. Horn’s time was 20th fastest of the semi-finals, with fellow African Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast second quickest with 10.87 behind Thompson.
Earlier, South Africa’s two women’s marathoners were never in contention as Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo won in 2:27.11 from Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat (2:27.18) and Amy Cragg (2:27:18).
All three ran season’s best times, and the South African duo of Mapaseka Makhanya and Jenna Challenor joined them with season’s best times of 2:40:15 (40th) and 2:47:22 (59th) respectively.
Picture of Van Niekerk and Thebe courtesy of Michael Steele/Getty Images