Wayde Van Niekerk on course for historic double after securing comfortable 400m victory

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London 2017 menSponsored by Ethiopian Airlines, London 2017.

Wayde van Niekerk underlined his status as one of the most extraordinary athletes currently operating in track and field as he successfully defended his world 400m title here without any of his talented rivals ever looking remotely likely to challenge him.

In claiming gold in 43.98, the 25-year-old South African completed the first part of his projected double at these championships. Tomorrow he will take part in the men’s 200m semifinals which take place ahead of Thursday night’s final.

Silver in 44.41 went to 21-year-old Steven Gardiner, the 6ft 5in talent from The Bahamas who had lowered his national record to 43.89 in reaching this final, with the fast-finishing Abdalelah Haroun of Qatar claiming bronze in a season’s best of 44.48.

“It is amazing to win the world title again,” said Van Niekerk. “It is a blessing. I hope the fans enjoyed that. I’m used to the lactic (acid in legs) but I need a few minutes to recover from that effort and I’ll be fine.

“I’ve got a good team who will help me recover well for the 200m and I’m looking forward to that.”

Meanwhile Haroun, the first Asian world 400m medallist, commented: “The first thing I wanted to do was reach the final but I’ve had to fight for a medal. I knew it was a big chance for me so, I am very happy to have taken the opportunity.

“It is a very special moment for my country and an honour to take the bronze medal with me.”

Van Niekerk started strongly from lane six, the lane outside him empty in the absence of Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, who was withdrawn by an IAAF medical delegate, and he had taken control of the race by the time the field rounded the final bend.

The tall figure in the pale blue shirt, Gardiner, led the challenge inside him, with Jamaica’s Nathon Allen, who had run a personal best of 44.19 to become the second fastest qualifier, slightly behind him.

Allen began to fade in the final straight, however, and it seemed as if Botswana might earn a medal through their 20-year-old talent Baboloki Thebe.

However, Haroun’s final charge moved the 20-year-old through from sixth to third over the final 30 metres.

Allen had to settle for fifth place in 44.88, one place above his compatriot Demish Gaye, who clocked 45.04.

US champion Fred Kerley, who posted the third fastest time of the season, 43.70, back in May for Texas A&M University, had only reached the final as one of the two non-automatic qualifiers and could manage no more than 45.23 for seventh place. For this 22-year-old who has only recently taken up professional status, it has been a long and tiring season.

Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF

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