van Niekerk cruises with main challenger out
If it seemed as though there were miles between Wayde van Niekerk and his closest competition yesterday, that wasn't so far from the truth.
On a chilly evening in which the South African sprinter eased up and still won his second straight 400-metre world title by .43 seconds, the man who was expected to give him the toughest test wasn't even allowed in the stadium.
The stomach virus that hit a number of athletes at the world championships earlier in the week morphed into a full-fledged mess a few hours before the 400 final, when video surfaced of Isaac Makwala of Botswana who has pushed van Niekerk in races all season being escorted away from the athletes' entrance to the stadium.
Makwala insisted he felt fine. But he vomited Monday before the heats of his other race, the 200 metres, and the IAAF said doctors checked him, determined he had norovirus and, per the recommendation of health regulators in Britain, told him he had to stay off the premises for 48 hours.
The IAAF put out its own statement defending the decision. But that was hardly the end of the debate.
Two full paces
Van Niekerk won the race in a pedestrian-for-him 43.98 seconds, which was still two full paces ahead of silver and bronze medalists Steven Gardiner and Abdalelah Haroun.
"It was just definitely a heart-breaking moment," van Niekerk said. "I saw him just before the 200-metre heat and the only thing I could think of was wrapping my arms around him and telling him to get well soon. As much as you want to leave with gold medals, you want to go out there with the best guys also out there."