September 2, 2019 / 11:46 AM / 19 days ago

Athletics: Van Niekerk rules out World Championship defence

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - World record holder Wayde van Niekerk said he would not defend his 400-metres title at this month’s World Championships in Doha as he has yet to recover from a knee injury.

Athletics - World Athletics Championships – men’s 200 metres final – London Stadium, London, Britain – August 10, 2017 – Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa reacts after winning the silver. REUTERS/John Sibley

The Olympic champion suffered the injury while playing a charity touch rugby game in October 2017 and has not raced internationally since.

The 27-year-old South African recently returned to training after enduring a number of setbacks, but says he is in no rush to return to competition as he looks forward to the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

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

His doctor Louis Holtzhausen, who has been leading Van Niekerk’s recovery over the last two years, believes it will move more rapidly in the coming months.

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

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

Van Niekerk had hoped to run at the South African championships in April but pulled out and also skipped a proposed return at the London Diamond League in July after suffering a bruise on the bone in his knee.

Van Niekerk beat Michael Johnson’s 17-year world record in the 400-m at the 2016 Olympics and was set to take on the 200-m as well before his injury.

He also won gold in the World Championships in Beijing in 2015.

Reporting By Nick Said, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Jon Boyle

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