Wayde van Niekerk withdrawn from Paris Olympic 400m, 'will do 200m'

Wayde van Niekerk looks on before the men's 400m during the 2024 USATF NYC Grand Prix in New York on June 9.
Wayde van Niekerk looks on before the men's 400m during the 2024 USATF NYC Grand Prix in New York on June 9.
Image: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Wayde van Niekerk has been withdrawn from the 400m at the Paris Olympics and would be unavailable for the 4x400m relay, a South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) official said on Wednesday afternoon.

He will apparently compete in the 200m instead and be a reserve for the 4x100m relay. 

Van Niekerk’s name had disappeared off the World Athletics list of qualified Olympic 400m athletes for the Games that kick off on July 27, although he was still listed as South Africa’s fifth qualifying athlete in the 200m.

The athlete’s agent Peet van Zyl said he didn’t know about the withdrawal and had yet to get back to TimesLIVE with further details nearly three hours later. One of the national team coaches said he also had no knowledge of the withdrawal. 

According to the Sascoc official, Van Niekerk’s withdrawal meant he would not be able to compete in the 4x400m relay, which was considered a medal shot after finishing second at World Relays in early May.

“Once out the main race he can’t compete [in the 4x400m relay],” the official responded in a WhatsApp message.

Without Van Niekerk the 4x400m relay will struggle to make the podium. They won the silver in Bahamas without their star, but the 3min 00.75sec that they managed will probably not be good enough to even make the final in Paris. 

The good news is that Van Niekerk is looking at the 4x100m relay. “He is [a] reserve for the [4x100m] relay,” the Sascoc official said. 

South Africa’s 4x100m outfit also has potential, but some observers feel they’re missing a strong fourth member to give them a serious push towards the podium.

Van Niekerk might be the one to close that gap — as long as he’s fully fit and in form.

The 2016 Olympic 400m champion and owner of the 43.03sec 400m world record had run only one individual 400m race this year, ending third at a meet in New York in 44.74sec.

He also ran two 4x400m relay legs, one at the Florida Relays in March and again in the heats at World Relays in Bahamas on May 4, pulling out of the final there because of a niggle.

Van Niekerk, 31, has run five 200m events this season, posting his fastest times since injuring his right knee in 2017, although he still finished second at the South African championships in April behind Benjamin Richardson.

His best effort has been a wind-assisted 20.23.

The Sascoc official said Van Niekerk would run the 200m in Paris, but was unable to explain how that would happen because of his fifth placing in the queue. Nations can enter only three athletes in each track and field event.

US-based Shaun Maswanganyi, Luxolo Adams and Richardson qualified on automatic entry times, while Sinesipho Dambile and Van Niekerk are in contention on world ranking positions, 34th and 41st respectively.

Dambile was a DNF in his last 200m race in Ireland on Tuesday and Adams, struggling to recover from injury himself, has run only once this year, finishing third in a pedestrian 21.50sec in Italy at the weekend, well off his 19.82 personal best from 2022.

If the two of them were to withdraw for whatever reason, that would open the door for Van Niekerk to get into the individual event.

Van Niekerk has a 19.84 personal best in the 200m from 2017, but would not be a serious medal contender in this event in Paris — 17 athletes around the world have run under 20 seconds this year and seven of them under 19.90. 

But competing in a heat and maybe a semifinal would be a good warm-up ahead of the 4x100m relay, with the final scheduled for the back-end of the Olympics on August 9.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.