Wayde van Niekerk has expressed his extreme disappointment at exiting the men’s 400m at the semi-final stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics… writes Gary Lemke in Tokyo. Van Niekerk said in the immediate aftermath:
“Obviously I’m very disappointed with the run. 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.
TeamSA said on social media:
“Coming back from injury to make the semifinals of the Olympic Games is something to be very proud of. Wenda Nel and Wayde van Niekerk are true ambassadors for South Africa ?? ❤️”
UPDATE on Team SA’s article about Wayde van Niekerk:
In a previous version of the above article, TeamSA’s Gary Lemke had pointed out how relieved Wayde would’ve been that the stadium was not packed for hundreds to witness him “crash out of the Games in the manner that he did” and that he had struggled in the last 80 metres as if “treading wet cement”. After many readers complained about the report, TeamSA removed the article. To those criticising Lemke and calling him names, we’d like to point out that you’d be hard pressed to find someone as hard-working and dedicated to supporting the athletes that he writes about, as Gary is. As he says in a tweet:
“No malice was intended in my ‘race report’. It was intended to be sympathetic, but clearly my tone did not come across as such so the post was rightly deleted. Apologies and thank you to those who have interacted. Wayde will rise again, you can be sure of that.”