Van Niekerk sets 200m track alight

YEAR BEST: Wayde van Niekerk after winning the 200m on day two of the ASA Senior Championships at the PUK McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom at the weekend

World 400m record-holder Wayde van Niekerk surged to a best 200m time this year of 19.90 seconds at the South African championships in Potchefstroom on Saturday.

Van Niekerk set the track alight, dipping below 20 seconds for the second time with a career best.

The previous fastest 200m time this year was 19.95 from another South African, Akani Simbine, who beat Van Niekerk to win the 100m title on Friday.

Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt holds the world record of 19.19.

Knocking 0.05 off his previous best has strengthened Van Niekerk’s resolve to pursue the 100m-200m double at the world championships in London in August.

“It is such a soothing feeling knowing I put down a solid time, and getting revenge for [finishing second in the 100m final] also feels quite good.

“It is a long season so I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself – the goals are the world championships and the European season,” Van Niekerk said.

He beat Rio Olympic Games 100m finalist Simbine and world 200m junior silver medallist Gift Leotlela to the line after a blistering bend.

Simbine raced home in 20.15, with Leotlela third in 20.20.

South African sprinters hold the top five times in the world in the 200m this year, with Van Niekerk spearheading the charge.

Rio Olympics long jump silver medallist Luvo Manyonga improved his South African and African record by 3cm with an opening leap of 8.65m before retiring due to a groin injury.

The leap catapulted him to 11th in the world all-time best list and earned him his maiden senior national title.

Ruswahl Samaai finished second with the second-best jump in the world this year of 8.49m. “This is how it feels to be a champ – it is special and it looks like it is now an everyday thing where it is an African record on the first jump,” former drug addict Manyonga said.

“Finally, I got the gold medal, but there is more coming.

“The focus wasn’t on the South African champs – the bigger picture is the world championships.

“It is my record and I will be the person to break it again.”

Olympic women’s 800m champion Caster Semenya raced to a golden double in the 400m and 800m with times of 51.60 and 2:01.03 to defend both titles.

“I would have preferred dipping below two minutes but I still have the SA student championships where I can do that while I will play around with speed in the 400m,” she said.

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