Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk’s dream of a double 200/400m triumph came within 0.02sec of being realised at the IAAF World Championships in London on Thursday night, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Having won the 400m final two nights previously, Van Niekerk had snuck into the final as the fastest semi-final loser on Wednesday night.
But on Thursday it was Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, a man who had focused entirely on the 200m at these championships, who snuck past Van Niekerk on the line to win in 20.09 seconds
Van Niekerk, who had looked understandably tired in Wednesday’s semi-final, started in lane three and ran a great first half of the race and his 400m strength looked like keeping him in front down the straight. But Guliyev finished strongest and just overhauled the South African on the line.
Van Niekerk won silver for South Africa by the tightest of margins, just 0.001sec separating him and bronze medallist Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago as they both ran times of 20.11. The slimmest of gaps separated silver from bronze… 0.001sec to be exact.
The Bloemfontein blitz had been looking to emulate the great Michael Johnson’s 200/400m double from the 1985 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Still, it’s the first time a South African has won two individual medals at the same Championships… you just can’t keep this man out of the history books!
The medal was South Africa’s fifth of the championships and and kept them in third place on the medals table behind the United States (19) and Kenya (seven).
And still to come will be reigning Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, who has already picked up bronze for the rainbow nation in the 1500m metre and looks a banker for a medal, whatever colour that may be in these championships that have been marked by many an upset.
In the women’s 200m semi-finals, Rio Olympian Justine Palframan was unable to progress through to the final.
She went off in the first of three semi-finals. Lining up in lane two she ran a nice bend but was unable to make any impact down the straight as Netherlands’ Dafne Skippers won in 22.50.
Palframan ended in seventh spot with a time of 23.21 after running a season’s best 22.84 in Belgium last month.
In the men’s javelin big Rocco van Rooyen failed to throw his way out of the qualifying round.
Going into the championships with a season’s best 84.09 m he needed an 83m throw to automatically book his place in the final.
But he fell well short of that mark after opening with a 73.93m effort. He improved that marginally with a 74.02 heave but his third and final throw was his worst of the evening, a 70.27m throw.
Earlier Olympic champion Semenya sailed into the semi-finals of the women’s 800m.
Only needing to place in the first three in her heat, Semenya did just enough to win in 2min 01.33sec.
The bell for the last lap ran in 60.48sec with Semenya comfortably placed in third.
Coming down the main straight the 1500m bronze medallist earlier this week switched effortlessly from the inside lane to get some space and come home in relaxed style.
Her compatriot in the two-lapper, young Gena Lofstrand was off in the last of six heats.
After an impressive season on the European circuit the Durbanite went off hard from the gun, showing little sign of any nerves in this, the biggest stage she’s competed on.
She led the field through the bell in a hasty 58.72 and looked in fine form before perhaps her inexperience saw her being boxed in on the final bend and spat out of the back of the field with no space to accelerate.
She ended in seventh place with a time of 2.01.73 as Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba won in 1:59.96, the fastest time of the heats. Lofstrand though was rewarded for her brave front-running efforts as her time was quick enough to power her through to Friday night’s semi-finals.
The 21-year-old’s time was 0.23sec off her personal best run in Switzerland a month ago on Friday.
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
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