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Van Niekerk safely through to 400m final

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By Mark Etheridge

National champion Wayde van Niekerk took another stop upwards in his blossoming career on Tuesday evening as he qualified automatically for the Commonwealth Games 400m track final.

The 22-year-old looked mature beyond his years as he ran a nicely controlled second semi-final to clock 45.41sec and end second behind Grenada’s Kirani James (45:14), who it has to be said looks in a different class at these Games.

‘He’s looking very good,’ said Van Niekerk of James. ‘But I used him today to pull me through over the final stage.’

Van Niekerk was the fourth fastest qualifier for the final, and the good news is that he looked a far more relaxed runner compared to Monday’s first round heats where he complained of tightening up down the home straight.

A weary Van Niekerk, still better known as a 200m runner, told the SASCOC website afterward: ‘Hey, I really need to start liking this distance. I’m still not liking it … the lactic acid hits you so badly.

‘But to be honest, it wasn’t that difficult tonight. I feel much happier compared to yesterday.’

Before he can turn his attention to the final though, Van Niekerk has to focus on the half-lapper on Wednesday.

‘I’ve also been entered for the 200m. The heats are tomorrow morning and if I don’t run there then I can’t run the final so I’ll use tomorrow’s heat to loosen the legs for the 400m final.’

What’s it going to take to add another medal to Team South Africa’s haul?

‘Probably a personal best or else a very solid 44sec effort,’ he reckons. Van Niekerk’s personal best is the 44.38 he ran at the New York leg of the Diamond League six weeks ago.

Encouraging for the Bloemfontein youngster though, is that going into the semi-finals, of the 24 entrants, only two had posted better season’s best times than Van Niekerk. One of them is James, the other is Botswana’s Isaac Makwala … who didn’t go through to the final, missing out by 0.02sec.


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