Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk laid down a marker when he raced to an impressive victory in the 200m at the ASA Athletix Invitational powered by AVANTI at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium in Johannesburg.
Benefiting from a +2.1m/sec tailwind, Van Niekerk found an extra gear to hold off 100m star Akani Simbini, who had run a sub-10 in the 100m at the Gauteng North Championships at the weekend. Van Niekerk, whose return from a career-threatening knee injury suffered in 2017 has been widely documented, crossed the line in 20.10, with Simbine credited with a 20.29 in wet, windy conditions.
‘This definitely gave me confidence I didn’t have before,’ said Van Niekerk. ‘It’s one thing training well, but it’s a different thing executing it against such a quality line-up, guys I have the world of respect for.’
Simbine was far from downbeat after having to settle for second against his fellow Team SA star. Both will head to the Tokyo Olympics with realistic expectations of winning a medal for their country.
‘I just ran a terrible bend, but other than that I’m happy with the race,’ said Simbine.
Gold medallist at the 2017 World Under-18 Championships and the 2018 World Under-20 Championships, Sokwakhana Zazini show his form when winning the men’s 400m hurdles in 50.13, while Wenda Nel held off Taylon Bieldt to take the women’s 400m hurdles in 56.16.
Renier de Villiers won the men’s 800m in 1:46.83, while Namibian junior Beatrice Masilingi won the women’s 200m sprint in 22.59 and Charona Bakker of the Netherlands coasted home in 13.46 in the women’s 100m hurdles.
In the field, Werner Visser dominated the men’s discus throw with a distance of 60.88m and former under-20 World Championships medallist Johann Grobler won the men’s javelin with 78.84m.
‘“It was another wonderful competition day for our track and field athletes despite the downpour of rain at the tail of the programme,’ said Aleck Skhosana, ASA;’s president. ‘We are particularly happiest that we were able to offer several athletes in both South Africa and from our neighbouring countries a chance to either seek qualifications or improve and test their level of performance.
‘This was a great return to athletics for ASA despite the challenges that the coronavirus has caused throughout the country and the world. We are encouraged to have witnessed that some of the athletes are at an advanced level of preparation. We are extremely happy with the success of this event, our first since a lockdown was declared by the national government a year ago.’