Wayde van Niekerk's return date set
At long last, a return is in view for Wayde van Nierkerk.
The Olympic 400m champion has been sidelined with a serious knee injury since October, but finallly there is some encouraging news about his comeback.
The South African is set to get back to the track much earlier than previously thought.
"We are looking at a return to track and training by end of June or early July," Van Niekerk’s manager Peet van Zyl told the Olympic Channel.
“Rehabilitation is going on very well. Very positive. We are pleased with the progress." Van Zyl continued.
Already, a first target for Van Niekerk has been set:
"He will start his normal track training, bike training. Do a lot of track work. Not high intensity, but a lot of running to get everything back in the legs. He needs all the endurance."
The recovery path
Van Niekerk is a sports nut, but his love of rugby cost him dearly.
He sustained medial and lateral tears of the meniscus during a celebrity touch rugby game in Cape Town.
He also tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
Van Nierkerk needed surgery, and it was clear that he would be out for a prolonged time.
Initially, the 25-year-old was upbeat that he would only sit out for the first half of the 2018 outdoor season, missing the Commonwealth Games in Australia's Gold Coast, where he was tipped to add gold to the silver he collected on his debut at the Games in 2014.
But after weeks of rehabilitation in Colorado, Doha and at home in Bloemfontein, the outlook changed.
A road to recovery became longer and longer.
Pained and sore, van Niekerk was finding it tough mentally and physically.
“First two months post-surgery I regretted every moment wishing I could turn back time or just redo the decisions that brought me to where I am now,” he lamented.
“Especially when it came to simple things like walking again, balancing, stretching, keeping stable and even getting up to get something to drink.”
No more pain
Five months later, van Niekerk is still sitting out training, letting his body heal and working with his ‘close friend’, sports scientist and performance coach Obakeng Molopyane.
But now, there is an air of expectation.
The 400m world champion is ‘keeping on’.
The discomfort that affected most of his rehabilitation is gone.
“The pain is gone. Like he said to me when we came off a flight from Los Angeles some days ago for some business,‘walking off the plane is such a nice feeling, no pain at all’," his manager recounted.
Progress corroborated by the sinewy sprinter on a social media post. Van Niekerk always the optimist.
“Yes, I am stronger than ever before. Yes, I am the greatest. Yes, I will rewrite history. Yes, I will take all my records back. Yes, I will dominate again. Yes, I will be out of reach,” he said, obviously a sub 43, a goal in mind.
His world record from the magical race at the Estadio Olimpico at Rio 2016, stands at 43.03.
The dreams live on
Now, the focus in van Niekerk’s camp has shifted from when and if he can return, to how good he will be when he finally does race again.
“He is dedicated and motivated. Waiting for 2019 to defend his world title. He is only going to start running and competing next year. No running this year, completely no race in 2018,” van Zyl added.
Van Niekerk's dreams are alive and back on track with his focus on winning the double-double: gold at the world championships 2019 in Doha and Tokyo 2020.