Wayde van Niekerk has expressed his extreme disappointment at exiting the men’s 400m at the semi-final stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed with the run,” he said in the immediate aftermath. “I expected more from myself, but it didn’t work out how I’d like it to have worked. But is what it is and we move forward.”
The South African superstar finished in fifth place in 45.14sec behind Steven Gardiner in the third semi-final, racing in lane eight and having cruised up to join the lead down the back straight.
As they came off the turn, though, he looked to be in some trouble. The devastating finishing kick he delivered in winning gold at Rio 2016 was nowhere to be seen on another muggy night in Tokyo.
Van Niekerk had come to Tokyo as the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder after that unforgettable 43.03sec effort in Rio some five years ago.
With the requirements for the final being the first two across the line automatically reached the final, along with the next two fastest times from across the three heats, Van Niekerk’s fifth place meant that there was no way that he could reach the final.
There were 10 athletes who dipped under 45 seconds, with James Kirani heading the time sheets on 43.88. There were four season’s bests, one national record and one area best which showed how hot the competition was.
Van Niekerk will be back. He knows it and the whole world knows it.
After his race, the women’s 400m semi-finals were run in dismal conditions. Still, the show went on and in her race Wenda Nel finished seventh in 56.35 and would go no further in the competition.
Three athletes qualified for the final by going under 54sec as the rain came down. Sydney McLaughlin was quickest of all in 53.03 to stamp herself as gold-medal favourite, with fellow American Dalilah Muhammad second in 53.30.
Photo: Anton Geyser