Newly crowned 400-meter Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk may attempt to double in next year’s IAAF Track and Field World Championships in London. Although van Niekerk has not specified which double he will attempt, he will most likely try to double in the 200 and 400 meter races.
Van Niekerk shocked the track and field world in Rio by breaking Michael Johnson’s 400 meter world record with a time of 43.03. What makes this performance even more special was the fact that van Niekerk broke the record from lane 8. Currently, he is the only runner to ever run under 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m, and 44 seconds for 400m. If anyone has a good chance of doubling in the 200m and 400m races, it’s certainly van Niekerk.
Doubling in the 200m and 400m races at the Olympics or World Championship is not an easy task. American quarter-miler LaShawn Merritt found this out first hand as he attempted the double in Rio. Merritt finished with the bronze medal in the 400m with a time of 43.85 and 6th place in the 200m with a time of 20.19. Running three rounds in the 400m and coming back to do the same in the 200m significantly wears on the body; a runner must be in phenomenal shape to even attempt a double of this nature.
It will be interesting to see how van Niekerk prepares for this feat next season. In an interview, he mentioned “At the moment I am so motivated and so inspired where I feel the sky is the limit and I will try to improve in every single area.” He also mentioned that he would not run a lot of 400s in South Africa next year, although he expects to do more in Europe.
I believe van Niekerk has a great chance to have success in the double, although I do not believe he will win gold medals in both events. This is mainly due to the fact that 9-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt will be looking to defend his titles in both the 100m and 200m races. The 2017 World Championships should be very interesting if van Niekerk tries to challenge the undisputed spring king Usain Bolt over 200 meters.
Bolt and van Niekerk were both nominated to the United States Sports Academy’s Athlete of the Month ballot for August. Click here to vote.
By Dr. Brandon Spradley
Dr. Spradley is the Director of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.