Can Wayde van Niekerk roll back the years and reclaim world championship crown?

Wayde Van Niekerk (RSA) competes on Men’s 400 m Semi-Final during the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 at National Athletics Center in Budapest, Hungary

Wayde van Niekerk will be looking to claim a third World Athletics Championship crown, when he lines up in the final of the men’s 400m on Thursday evening. Picture: Stephane Kempinaire/KMSP/AFP

Published Aug 24, 2023


He may have only just scraped into the men’s 400m final at the World Athletics Championships, but Wayde van Niekerk might just fancy his chances of reclaiming his world crown.

The world record holder and 2016 Olympic champion will be aiming to win a third World Athletics Championships title, when he lines up in the final in lane two at 9.35pm on Thursday evening.

This season, Van Niekerk has been back to his best as he has lifted his world ranking back to number one. The 31-year-old boasts a season’s best of 44.08 seconds, which is the fastest of the eight athletes competing in the final.

However, Van Niekerk only barely made it through to the final as he missed out on an automatic qualifying spot as he finished third in his semi-final heat in a time of 44.65.

Worryingly, Van Niekerk struggled down the final straight as American Vernon Norwood came powering past him. It meant a nervous wait for Van Niekerk, as he would turn out to be one of the two fastest non-automatic qualifiers for the final.

Whether that semi-final was just an aberration or an indication of his current fitness, only the final will be able to determine.

Certainly Van Niekerk will be looking to forget that race as he looks ahead to the final, and remember just how he was able to run 43.03 when he set the new world mark in the final at the Rio Olympics.

A strong performance at these World Championships, will do a lot for Van Niekerk’s confidence heading to the Paris Olympics next year. Realistically, given his age, 2024 will be Van Niekerk’s last shot at bagging another Olympic gold.