The world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk came through in the men’s 400m final at the IAAF World Championships in London on Tuesday with a third global title in 43.98.
With one of his main rivals Isaac Makwala absent after being excluded controversially on medical grounds, Olympic champion and world record holder Van Niekerk left the rest of the field in his wake, underlining his status as the sport’s new superstar in the post-Bolt world.
The talented runner’s time of 43.98 seconds was almost a second down on the astonishing record he set a year ago in Rio, but he was still 0.43secs clear of Steven Gardiner in second and the fast-finishing Abdalelah Haroun in third.
South African Van Niekerk, the Olympic and defending champion and world record holder, ran a controlled race and was even able to ease down over the final strides as he secured the first half of what he hopes will be a 400/200m double.
Makwala, third-fastest in the year this season, was scratched from the race earlier on Tuesday having also been withdrawn from Monday’s 200m heats after vomiting before he got on to the track.
He insisted he wanted to run but IAAF officials ruled him out for public health reasons and refused him entry to the stadium amid a swathe of nanovirus and gastroenteritis cases that have affected about 30 athletes from a selection of countries.
In his absence, Van Nierkerk looked an even shorter-odds favourite and duly delivered, barely seeming out of breath when he crossed the line with his thoughts already turning to the 200m.
“I’ve got a good team to help me recover and its back to work tomorrow,” he said.
Van Niekerk had huge sympathy for Makwala.
“It was definitely a heartbreaking moment,” he said. “I saw him just before the 200 heat and the only thing I could think of was just wrapping my arms around him and telling him he should get well soon.
“As much as we want to win gold medals, we also want to go out there and have best guys on the track with us. It’s such a massive pity. He’s a strong athlete, I’ve seen him break through a lot of challenges. So I have a lot of sympathy for him.
“I wish I could give him my medal to be honest, but this is sport. We need to go out there and fight for our opportunities and it could’ve happened to any one of us. We all have tough times, we just need to get up and fight harder.”