World record holder Wayde van Niekerk finally completed his first race of the season after clocking 44.58 seconds to win the men’s 400 meters at the Stars and Stripes Classic 2022 – American Track League meeting in Atlanta, GA, on Saturday.
Van Niekerk, who has been hampered by injuries in the past few seasons, dropped out of his previous race over 200m in Italy this season and entered Saturday’s event in Atlanta, aiming for a confident-boosting performance.
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After a brief delay due to lightning, the South African got off to an explosive start to cover the entire field in the first 200m before powering home to a new meeting record and his fastest time in the event in over a year.
“The plan was to try and execute my race as comfortably as possible coming off of consecutive niggles and injuries,” Van Niekerk, who is now looking forward to competing at the World Championships in two weeks, said.
“I tried to keep it as smooth as possible for as long as I could, but as you know as you get to the homestraight you have to pick it up a bit and finish strong so it gave me a reason to fight to the finish line and I am quite satisfied with the results,” the two-time world champions in 2015 and 2017 added.
Jamaica’s Rusheen McDonald took second place at a distant 45.43 seconds, defeating his fellow countryman Demish Gaye, who was third in 45.47.
After his victory, a delighted Van Niekerk, who had a broad smile on his face, acknowledged the crowd which cheered him all the way to the finish line.
His winning time is the 13th best on the world top list this season and the 29-year-old will head to the World Athletics Championships in Oregon later this month feeling a lot better about his chances of making it on the podium once he completes his final weeks of training sessions.
American Michael Norman leads the world with a fast 43.56 seconds, with countryman Champion Allison, who finished second to him at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships last week, ranked second on the world list season-best at 43.70 secs.
Other Stripes Classic 2022 – American Track League results
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Andrenette Knight rebounded from her unfortunate fall at the Jamaica National Championships with a victory in the women’s 400 hurdles, clocking 53.85 seconds to win comfortably ahead of Tia-Adana Belle of Barbados who ran 55.76 secs for second place.
American Amere Lattin won the men’s 400m hurdles in 49.04 secs.
Elsewhere, two-time World Indoor champion Sandi Morris, the reigning world outdoor silver medalist, won the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 4.65m, while Jamaica’s Chanice Porter won the women’s long jump with a season-best 6.55m.
USA’s Tia Jones took the women’s 100m hurdles in 12.57 secs over Briton Cindy Sember (12.66) and another American Tonea Marshall (12.74). The women’s 100m was swept by Jamaicans with Shockoria Wallace running 11.25 for the win over Natasha Morrison (11.33) and Remona Burchell (11.34) while USA’s Kendal Williams won the men’s race in 10.09.