Wayde van Niekerk had South Africans holding their breath as he missed out on automatic qualification for the 400m final at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Tuesday.
The Rio Olympic champion and world record holder finished third in the first of three semifinals, leading to an anxious wait to see if his time of 44.65 was quick enough to see him through to Thursday’s final. In the end, it proved enough, but the 2017 world champion was not happy with his performance.
“Tonight was very disappointing. Obviously not close to what we all know I can do,” he admitted afterwards. “But I live to see another day. I’ve got a day of recovery. The final is a great opportunity for each and every one of us. It’s all about the one who wants it the most, so these next few days I have to get my head right and prove to myself that this is what I want and then we put our best foot forward in the final.”
Gianmarco Tamberi put on a thrilling performance in the Men’s High Jump final, claiming his first World Title. The reigning Olympic champion jumped a height of 2,36 metres to claim the gold medal, with the USA’s JuVaughn Harrison finishing second on countback despite clearing the same height. Mutaz Barshim took the bronze after failing to clear 2,36m, a disappointment as this is the first time he hasn’t been crowned champion at a major championship since finishing second at Rio in 2016.
Zakithi Nene was also disappointed with his performance on the night, finishing sixth in the last of the 400m semifinals, in which two athletes including world leader Steven Gardiner pulled up injured, in 45.64 to miss out on a semifinal spot. “I almost pulled out myself with the tightness of my hammy, but I’m just glad I finished the race healthy and credit to everyone that qualified and went through,” he said afterwards.
Earlier in the evening there was happier news for sprint hurdler Marioné Fourie. The SA record holder finished third in her heat in 12.71 to automatically qualify for Wednesday’s semifinals.
“I was a little bit jittery at the start, I was a little bit nervous,” Fourie explained afterwards. “But I think the execution was OK… I think it was nerves, but the semifinals will definitely be better. I want another SA record.”
Taylon Bieldt missed out on the 100m hurdles semifinals after finishing seventh in her heat in 13.05.
Zeney van der Walt’s gruelling programme at these championships came to an end on Tuesday. Having doubled up with the 400m, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist was back after those semifinals on Monday for the 400m hurdles semifinals on Tuesday night.
She admitted afterwards to being somewhat disappointed with her time of 55.49 for eighth place. “It was tough. I am a bit disappointed with the time. I would have loved it if it was a sub-55 season’s best, PB, but it wasn’t. But I’m still grateful to have been part of the semifinals.”
Karsten Warholm Sets Eyes on Gold
Despite hitting the second hurdle, world record holder Karsten Warholm cruised to victory in his 400m hurdles semifinal at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Monday. He joked afterwards that it was more of a problem for the hurdle than it had been for him – his time on the night a speedy 47.09 seconds. 19-year-old Jamaican Roshawn Clarke was second in a new world junior record of 47.34. Speaking after his semifinal, the Norwegian superstar reckoned: “Surely there is going to be someone who challenges me but today it was very good and I felt strong. The truth is that I ran a bit faster than I wanted to but what can I do when the others are running like hell too? The track can never be too fast.” Warholm will be looking to regain the world title he last won in 2019 in tonight’s final scheduled for 9.50pm.
Our team on the ground at Budapest have been interviewing all South African athletes after their respective events. To get an inside view into strategy and their thoughts on their performances, click the button below to see for yourself what it takes to compete on a world stage!