Wayde van Niekerk Olympic and world champion

NEW YORK – Wayde van Niekerk has suffered another setback in his return from injury and will not be defending his world championships 400m title in Doha.

Although he made a short return with a 47.28 seconds performance in Bloemfontein in February, the South African has not truly raced competitively since 2017 after struggling to recover fully from a serious knee injury he sustained playing a charity tag rugby match in South Africa in October of that same year.

Van Niekerk, who underwent rehabilitation in Doha, had been hoping to return in time to defend his world title at the IAAF World Championships, which starts later this month.

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Van Niekerk Listens To Doctors, Body

However, despite returning to training, the world record holder said Monday that he was again delaying his comeback, following advice from his medical staff.

The Olympic champion and two-time world champion is currently training with his coach at a base in Gemona, Italy, remains positive.

“I’m still positive and I’m just taking things day by day, respecting all the calls made by the doctor and respecting my body,” said Van Niekerk in a statement.

“For me, it’s just about listening to my body and taking it from there. My main goal is to look after my body and when the opportunity comes, I’ll take it.

“For now I’m not rushing myself or putting pressure on myself. I’m extremely happy and at peace with where I am.”

Precautionary Reasons For Delay

Van Niekerk’s doctor, Louis Holtzhausen calls the latest delay “a minor setback” but was confident the sprinter will return to action soon.

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“The medical teams, both in Bloemfontein and Aspetar, did all we could to have him ready for the IAAF World Championships, but it was just not possible,” said Holtzhausen.

“However, he has successfully returned to track training and all indications are that he will recover more rapidly from now on.”

Van Niekerk set the world record of 43.03 seconds en route to winning the men’s 400m Olympic title at Rio 2016, while he also won world titles at the 2015 and 2017 championships.

The all-round sprinter who became the first athlete to dip under benchmark times in the 100m, 200m and 400m, also owns personal bests of 19.84 for the 200m and 9.94 for the 100m.

Van Niekerk has now joined women’s 800m champion Caster Semenya as the South African superstars out of the world championships.

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