By Mark Etheridge
Wayde van Niekerk’s dream of a double World Championships triumph lives on in London as he breezed into the semi-finals of the 200-metre heats on Monday.
For Van Niekerk, already into Tuesday’s final of his main event, the 400m, Monday was all about going through with as little fuss as possible.
Lining up in lane seven of the third heat, Van Niekerk was in cruise control as he did the job at hand.
Only the first three in each heat qualified automatically and although Van Niekerk won in 20.16, the manner in which he glanced left and right and swopped smiles with Briton runner-up Daniel Talbot down the main straigh, showed that this was little more than a three-quarter effort from the Rio Olympic 400m champ.
Van Niekerk was joined by Akani Simbine in the semi-finals as Simbine settled for second in his heat, his time of 20.26sec, just 0.07sec slower than winner Isiah Young of the US.
‘It was all about qualifying there,’ said Simbine. ‘It’s the first time I’ve run a 2000m at a major championships so I’m pretty happy with that progression through to the next round. I’m confident and happy with where I’m at. I’m still learning how to run the 200m and how to navigate the curve but it’s all about learning and experience for the future.’
The rainbow nation looked to have reserved three spots in the semi-finals as young Clarence Munyai, the African 300m record holder, took third spot in his heat with a time of 20.19 behind Canadian Aaaron Brown (20.08) and the host nation’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (20.09).
But officials ruled that both Brown and Munyai had incurred lane infringements and both were disqualified.
Quickest qualifier into the semi-finals was Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards with a 20.05 with Van Niekerk ranked fourth and Simbine eighth.
Biggest name missing was Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, like Van Niekerk, also originally going for the 200/400m double and it’s not yet known whether he was merely saving himself for Tuesday’s 400m final or if it was more serious.
Also on the track, national 400m hurdles champion Wenda Nel went through to the semi-finals with no bother at all.
Running in the outside lane eight in heat four she was all fluency as she ran a controlled race to power through to second in 55.47 as American Kori Carter won in 54.99.
Nel’s time is 1.10sec outside her season’s best but she won’t be bothered with that right now, it will be the ease with which she negotiated the 10 hurdles that should have seen her having a peaceful night’s recovery sleep.
Quickest into the semi-finals was American Delilah Muhammad’s 54.59 with Nel’s time 12th fastest of the 22 qualifiers.
Picture showing a relaxed Van Niekerk running alongside Daniel Talbot in the 200m heat courtesy of David Ramos/Getty Images