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S.Africa’s Van Niekerk working ‘too hard’ not to run in Doha

South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk targets 2019 world championships © AFP / Andrej ISAKOVIC

MIDRAND, South Africa, Feb 28 – South African Olympic 400m champion Wayde Van Niekerk said on Thursday that he will “probably” compete at the world athletics championships in Doha in September as he returns from injury.

Van Niekerk, who was injured in a touch rugby game at the end of 2017, also paid tribute to fellow South African athlete Caster Semenya and her fight against International Associations of Athletics Federations rules on testosterone levels.

“Caster’s super strong. She’s fighting for women to have equal rights,” he said at an event hosted by his sponsor, T-Systems South Africa, as it renewed their deal for three years in Midrand, south of Pretoria.

On his hopes for Doha, Van Niekerk, a silver medallist at the 2017 world championships in London, said he was “working way too hard to not be there”.

“I think I’ll be there and I think things are going my way. It’s going quite good. My team is very patient with me. I honestly believe I will be there and I will be able to compete quite well,” added the 26-year-old runner. “It’s a blessing having a team in Doha.”

His rehabilitation included time in the United States, Qatar and South Africa.

“It’s never crossed my mind (that I wouldn’t be there).”

A video of Van Niekerk running recently appeared on Instagram which Van Niekerk described as “extremely rusty”.

“I would have liked my comeback to look better,” he said with a smile.

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Earlier this month Van Niekerk won a 400m race at the provincial Free State championships in central city Bloemfontein in a time of 47:28 seconds, 4:25 sec outside his world record.

It was the first time Van Niekerk had competed since defending his 400m title and finishing second in the 200m final at the 2017 world championships in London.

“(But) I’m excited to get back into the mix,” he said, refusing to confirm where he would compete next.

“I had a lot of time to sit back and understand the situation I’m going through.

“I come back stronger… mentally I feel very strong, physically I still need to do work.”

The Cape Town-born athlete set the world record of 43:03 when winning 400m gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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