Having shown that he is back to his old winning self, Wayde van Niekerk sailed to an easy victory in his first 400m for the year, at the Free State Provincial Championships.
However, the cold, wet and excessively windy weather did not leave him much room to perform at his peak.
To avoid injury, he held back and decided to take it slow, completing the race with a time of 47.42 seconds.
This finishing time however, would still place him in the top tier of 400m sprinters and virtually guarantees him a spot on the South African Olympics team.
His previous races for the year had been in the 100 and 200m, and he won these with times that would have put him in the top 10 at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Two weeks ago, he ran a 100m time of 10.20 seconds and last week, he ran a time of 10.10 seconds in the 100m and 20.31 seconds in the 200m.
These few races are part of Wayde’s recovery strategy and to prepare himself for the upcoming 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo.
However, the previous 400m record holder, Michael Johnson, warned that “expectations around Wayde should not be too high as it will be a huge challenge for him to be at his best in Japan”.
“It is mentally tough to stage a comeback in an Olympic year, especially when many of your rivals for medals are clocking really fast times,” says Michael.
Michael did, however, state that Wayde “is a special athlete who may not follow the normal patterns of recovery” and suggested that he may still have a chance of “winning another 400m gold medal”.