Wayde van Niekerk, along with two fellow leading South African track-and-field stars, have arrived in Gemona, Italy as they set their sights on a potential return to competition.
World 400m record-holder Van Niekerk, African long-jump champion Ruswahl Samaai and African 110m hurdles record-holder Antonio Alkana are hoping to use the favourable conditions at the European base for some warm-weather training over the next few months.
They are joined by sprint coach Tannie Ans Botha, as well as long jump coach Jenny Kingwill.
Commonwealth Games 100m champion Akani Simbine and his coach, Werner Prinsloo, are also expected to arrive in Gemona early next month.
‘I’m happy to be back in Gemona, which has become like a second home to me,’ Van Niekerk said. ‘I’m grateful to be healthy, and I’m hoping to get in a few races if possible, as we start to prepare for a full return to competition when coronavirus restrictions allow.’
Having arrived on Sunday, Van Niekerk, Samaai and Alkana are likely to be based in Gemona for at least three months.
The global Covid-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games, which would have started later this week with Van Niekerk attempting to successfully defend the 400m title he won in Rio four years ago. On that occasion the South African, running in the extreme outside lane, not only won the gold medal, but did so in a world-record 43.03sec.
However, he suffered a freak knee injury the following year and remains on the comeback trail. All the indications are that his injury is a thing of the past and the postponement of the Olympics from 2020 to 2021 could actually work in his favour as he continues building to form and fitness that he hopes will help him break the magical 43-second barrier for the one-lapper, while also mounting a challenge over the 200m.