Men’s 400 metres world record holder Wayde van Niekerk has been ruled out of next year’s Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast after sustaining a knee injury during a celebrity touch rugby match.
Van Niekerk had revealed his intention to compete for South Africa at the Games earlier this month and was planning to compete over the 100m and 200m.
It would have meant he would not participated in the 400m, the distance he is the Olympic and world champion in.
In a statement, van Niekerk announced he would be forced to take an enforced break due to injury, with the South African star having arrived at the Steadman Clinc in Colorado to undergo a medical procedure.
He injured medial and lateral tears of the meniscus, as well as a torn anterior cruciate ligament, while participating in a recent celebrity touch rugby match in Cape Town.
“I was looking forward to competing in the 100m and 200m events in Gold Coast, and participating at the National Championships in March, so this is unfortunate timing,” Van Niekerk said.
“But this is sport and these things happen.
“I trust that the team I have around me, including the medical professionals, will make this process as smooth as possible.
“I have faith that, God willing, I’ll be able to race again later next year.
“Full recovery is going to be crucial, so I’ll be patient, but I will work as hard as I can to get back on the track as soon as possible.”
Following surgery, van Niekerk is set to undergo rehabilitation for six months in Colorado, Doha and South Africa.
At Glasgow 2014, van Niekerk finished second in the 400m behind Grenada’s Kirani James, at the time the Olympic champion.
At the Olympic Games last year in Rio de Janeiro the positions were reversed when James finished second as van Niekerk ran 43.03sec to beat Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record.
The 25-year-old from Cape Town is widely considered the natural heir to Usain Bolt’s crown as athletics’ next big superstar.
The news will be a blow to Gold Coast 2018, with van Niekerk having been viewed as one of the star names due to feature at the Games.
Organisers, however, confirmed earlier this month that they had sold 200,000 of the 250,000 tickets currently available for athletics due to take place at the Carrara Stadium.
It is expected that once the track has been fully laid in the Stadium, normally the home of Australian Football League side Gold Coast Suns, and the reconfiguration of the arena is complete, up to a total of 300,000 tickets will have been available to the public.