Wayde van Niekerk qualifies at last for Tokyo, but Caster Semenya misses again


Wayde van Niekerk has qualified in the 400m for the Tokyo Olympics
Picture: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

The good news is that Wayde van Niekerk finally qualified in the 400m for the Tokyo Olympics, but the bad news is that he was beaten on the line in Madrid on Saturday night.

The reigning Games champion and owner of the 43.03 sec world record clocked 44.56 sec, his fastest time since before he injured his right knee in late 2017.

He led from the start, but Colombian Anthony Jose Zambrano chased him down on the home straight to steal the win in a 44.51 personal best.

Van Niekerk has a little over a month to wring out the ring rust that was on show in Spain, but given how he’s come through a tough month or two, he can’t be written off yet.

He struggled to get the paperwork before being allowed to fly to the US to join his new coach, and then in his first race there, the 200m in Boston, he pulled up when he felt a tightness in his right hip.

Van Niekerk, who arrived in his Italian training camp in Gemona from the US only on Tuesday morning, has his work cut out. He is scheduled to race again in Lucerne later this month.

Running in Germany, however, Caster Semenya missed the mark in the women’s 5,000m, finishing fourth in 15 min 57.12 sec, well outside the 15:10.00 criterion.

Dattke Miriam’s winning time of 15:34.92 was slightly slower than the personal best Semenya posted in her last outing in Durban last month.

The qualifying window for track and field ends on June 29.

It was all happening on the Iberian Peninsula, however. In Portugal, Michelle Weber qualified for Tokyo in the women’s 10km open-water swim as the first African home.

She ended 15th overall in 2hr 03 min 12.10 sec. The winning time, by Hungary’s Anna Olasz, was 2:01:55.50.

Weber’s countrymen Henre Louw and Michael McGlynn will attempt to qualify in the men’s race on Sunday.

Racing in the same meet in Madrid, Gift Leotlela won the men’s 100m in 10.15 sec after taking the first semifinal in 10.21.

Clarence Munyai ended fourth in the same semifinal in 10.60.

By David Isaacson – DispatchLIVE