World record holder and Olympic 400-metre champion Wayde van Niekerk is one of six South Africans in Diamond League action in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday evening.
It’s the first time he’s lined up for a top-flight 400m this season, but he’s riding a rich vein of form which has seen him running a national 200m record in Jamaica and a world 300m best in Czech Republic.
Van Niekerk has run 46.28 for the one-lapper this season at the low-key national student championships in Cape Town, a far cry from the 43.03 world record in Rio last year.
Of the field lining up against him in Lausanne, quickest this season is Tony McQuay, the American having run 44.51. Six of the field have dipped under 45sec and he has two fellow Africans as company – Botswana’s Isaac Makwala (44.80 this season) and Baboloki Thebe (44.89).
Van Niekerk will no doubt be looking to launch his early-season form over the shorter sprints on Thursday.
‘I know I’m in good shape over every distance below 400m, so I’m looking forward to seeing where I am with the 400m,’ Van Niekerk said on Wednesday. ‘I want to go out there, put my best foot forward and put on a good show.’
SA 100m champion Akani Simbine is in action for the second time time in four days, after his double sprint silver in Budapest on Sunday.
He lines up for the 100m along with countryman Henricho Bruintjies and they’ll join American Justin Gatlin (100m winner in Budapest) and African champion Ben Youssef Meite of Ivory Coast in the short sprint.
In the 400m hurdles, veteran Olympian LJ van Zyl (pictured in pre-meeting training with Van Niekerk on Wednesday) is joined by reigning Commonwealth champion Cornel Fredericks. Both South Africans have had slow starts to their season and have yet to break the 49sec barrier. Quickest in the field this season is American Michael Stigler with 48.26.
The only women flying the flag for South Africa is Rio Olympics’ Sunette Viljoen in the javelin. Viljoen had some encouraging throws in Finland recently and her season’s best 63.49m ranks seventh of the entrants for this event. Belarussia’s Tatsiana Khaladovich has the best throw in the field, with 66.30m.
The meeting will be screened live on SuperSport 8 from 7.45pm.
Schedule of SA athletes in action (SA time):
7.40pm – Sunette Viljoen (javelin)
8.54pm – Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles)
9.20pm – Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies (100m)
9.40pm – Wayde van Niekerk (400m)