CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South African runner Wayde van Niekerk was forced to put his honeymoon on hold to have surgery Tuesday in the United States on a serious right knee injury he sustained while playing in a celebrity tag rugby game three weeks ago.
The Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 400 meters is expected to be out of action for 6-to-9 months and will miss the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April.
Van Niekerk tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus cartilage when he slipped and fell in the rugby game at a stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, on Oct. 7. He was appearing in a tag game made up of South African celebrities ahead of the international rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand.
He left the celebrity game after falling but van Niekerk didn’t think he’d injured himself seriously at the time, and it took him a couple of days before he realized he needed scans, his manager, Peet van Zyl, said.
Van Zyl confirmed the diagnosis to the Associated Press and said van Niekerk was scheduled to have surgery at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., late Tuesday.
Van Niekerk, 25, will stay in Colorado for two to three weeks before heading to Doha, Qatar, for his rehabilitation.
Van Zyl said they held back news of van Niekerk’s injury because of the athlete’s wedding in South Africa on Sunday. He then flew to the U.S. on Monday.
Van Niekerk delivered perhaps the most resounding performance of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics when he won gold and broke Michael Johnson’s world record in the 400 in a breathtaking wire-to-wire run from lane eight. Johnson’s mark had stood for 17 years.
Gerald Imray is an Associated Press writer.