Athletics

Exercise physiologist guru offers Van Niekerk advice

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Dr Ross Tucker (Gallo Images)
Dr Ross Tucker (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - World-renowned exercise physiologist, Dr Ross Tucker believes that 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk should stick to two disciplines going forward.

Van Niekerk became a household name around the world when he smashed American legend Johnson's 400m world record by 0.15 seconds at the Rio Olympics last year, setting a new time of 43.03.

Last year, Van Niekerk set a 100m PB of 9.98 to achieve the unique career milestone of breaking the sub-10 (100m), sub-20 (200m) and sub-44 (400m) barriers across all three official "sprint" distances.

On Wednesday Sport24 reported that Van Niekerk will compete in the rarely-run 300m distance at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Ostrava in June.

When quizzed by Sport24 on which distance(s) Van Niekerk should focus, Tucker offered his expert opinion...

Sport24: Where do you believe Wayde van Niekerk's future lies - 100m, 200m, 400m or a combination of which?

Tucker: The 200m and 400m, without a doubt. It's highly unusual to have the full range from 100m to 400m. You can be good at all three, definitely, but you're not going to be world-class at all three, and that's why nobody before Van Niekerk had run sub-10, sub-20 and sub-44. That alone makes his range unique, but to now ask that sub-10 100m performance to drop even further to something that would be considered truly world-class (sub 9.90s) is asking too much.

So the combination needs to be what Michael Johnson did - 200m and 400m. That works because the energy systems are relatively simple, and the speed of the 200m translates into 400m. 100m is just too far apart from 400m to do that. It needs a change to training that is just large enough that it can't be juggled with the 400m. So it's either 100m and 200m, or it's 200m and 400m.

Because Van Niekerk has already shown unique 400m abilities, that's the non-negotiable, in my opinion. I think his build is also perfectly suited to that distance, and so it's the speciality, and then he comes down to run what will be an exceptional 200m as well. 100m races are for early season preparation when he is working on speed, but that's never going to be an Olympic medal for him. The 200m and 400m both will.

Follow Dr Ross Tucker on Twitter

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