The prospect of a 200 metres and 400 metres double for Wayde van Niekerk in London this summer appears closer than ever after the South African outlined his intention of competing in both distances at the 2017 World Championships.
Van Niekerk, who smashed the 400m world record at the Rio Olympics last summer, is so serious about running the 200 that he has asked the IAAF to alter the scheduling of the Championships to allow him the best possible chance of success.
With Usain Bolt declaring that he would not defend his 200m title in London, Van Niekerk is well placed to claim that accolade due to a personal best of 19.94sec, a time that would have earned him the silver medal at the Rio Olympics. That race was won by Bolt in 19.78, some way behind the triple Olympic champion’s world record of 19.19 that was set in 2009 in Berlin.
The 24-year-old is concerned that the 200m heats will take place just two hours before the 400m final on August 8, which would not present Van Niekerk with an ideal amount of rest and preparation.
“I’m definitely doing the 200m and 400m, I’ve set it in my heart already and I’ve decided that I’m doing the ‘two’ and ‘four’,” Van Niekerk told the South African website EWN. “It doesn’t matter how the programme turns out, I’m going to do that challenge and see what happens.
“I really feel like I’ve achieved so much in the 400m and I want to bring an extra aspect into my athletics journey and I feel like this year I want to try the 200m and 400m. So whether the programme changes or not, I want to give it a go.”
Van Niekerk’s manager Peet van Zyl is still in the process of writing to the ASA on behalf of the world 400m champion, who is the first and only person in history to run faster than ten seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m, and 44 seconds for 400m.
The IAAF said that Athletics South Africa (ASA) needs to make the request for a schedule change but indicated that it is unlikely due to tickets for the London event already being sold.
Despite breaking Michael Johnson’s world record at the Rio Games, setting a new mark of 43.03sec, Van Niekerk is refusing to talk up his goals for the World Championships.
“I really don’t like getting ahead of myself,” the 24-year-old was quoted as saying. “Let’s see how the year works out, take it race by race.
“If the performances are growing and the confidence comes with it, then I’m sure I can run crazy times. I mean, if I had set a goal for myself a year ago for the 400m it would never have been 43.03s.”
Ans Botha, Van Niekerk’s 75-year-old coach, echoed the South African’s hopes of schedule change that would allow him the possibility of taking on the defending 100m and 200m champion Bolt.
“I don’t know if that will be a very good idea, to run a heat before a final,” she said. “We hope that they [IAAF] will see a way to change that.”