Wayde van Niekerk after beating Akani Simbine: 'It was the perfect race for me'

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Wayde van Niekerk during the launch of the Vitality Running World Cup at 1 Discovery Place.
Wayde van Niekerk during the launch of the Vitality Running World Cup at 1 Discovery Place.
Lee Warren
  • World and Olympic 400m record holder Wayde van Niekerk said Tuesday the 200m race where he went up against Akani Simbine was the perfect race for him.
  • Van Niekerk, who started slowly, beat Simbine to the post in a time of 20.11.
  • Van Niekerk will be moving to the United States of America soon where he'll be linking up with new coach Lance Brauman

South Africa’s celebrated 400m Olympic and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk said his 200m race where he beat Akani Simbine at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium on Tuesday was the perfect race for him.

Van Niekerk said the race, where his time of 20.11 relegated Simbine (20.29) to second, was what he needed to shake off the building anxiety of having not run competitively that often since his return from injury.

Van Niekerk said the race, which also featured Anaso Jobodwana who finished sixth, would have been even better if SA’s 200m record holder Clarence Munyai took part.

"This was the perfect race for me to get out of the anxiety that comes from being out of the sport for so long. I looked forward to competing against these guys and it would have been nice to have the record holder here to see where we are. There’s still quite a lot of room for improvement and growth," Van Niekerk said.

"This is what I need. I haven’t been running in a while, so I’m grateful that I can get to compete again. These guys are the best in the country, so it was a blessing to compete against them. I’ve been putting in the hard work at training, but it is a different thing to execute on the track and I’m glad I was able to execute today."

In what can be termed as a gradual return to form ahead of his 400m Olympic title defence in Tokyo, Van Niekerk ran the second fastest 200m time this year.

In facing Simbine, he was up against an athlete who ran 10.00 and 9.99 in his previous 100m races.

Van Niekerk said him winning the race wasn’t a surprise, but he is learning to adapt to the challenges that have come his way. One of them is getting over his slow starts over the first 100m.

"I wouldn’t call it a surprise, but there’s a big difference in training and competing. I didn’t have the best of conditions to prepare, and I haven’t been the luckiest when it came to conditions when preparing. I had a bad race in Switzerland and I had to catch up in the last 100m. I’m growing within these challenges," Van Niekerk said.

"I had a very lousy bend and something I really need to work on is my first 100m. In the 400s, I think I was lousy and it was the same in the 200s. That will come with more races because it’s going well in training."

Van Niekerk hasn’t put a date on when he’ll be going to the United States of America where he’ll be linking up with new coach Lance Brauman, but said he’ll be focusing on the 400m once his body allows him to.

Van Niekerk, who was coached by Tannie Ans Botha, said he was told by Brauman he needs to focus on the 200m to build his endurance.

"It’s back to the usual Wayde that we know in the 400m, but I’m going to invest in every event that I can. It’s a process I need to be patient with and one that I need to respect. This was a positive step and I’ll use it as momentum going forward. I’ve also got a new coach and things will be different to how I used to do them. I called the coach and told him there were race opportunities. He doesn’t want me in the 100m and the 400m because he doesn’t believe I’m where I need to be," Van Niekerk said.

"He wants me to do the 200m and when I ran one in Potchefstroom last week, it was windy, so it was challenging. Today, it was the competition that helped us through."

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