CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s Olympic gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk will miss next year’s Commonwealth Games after suffering a serious knee injury in a celebrity touch rugby match, the sprinter said on Tuesday.
The 400-metres Olympic and world champion has travelled to Vail in the United States for surgery after he suffered medial and lateral tears of the meniscus, as well as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
The 25-year-old will undergo six months of rehabilitation in Vail, Doha and South Africa, his management company confirmed, which will rule him out of the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast in April.
Following the retirement of Jamaican sprint great Usain Bolt, Van Niekerk is keen to compete in the 100 and 200 metres as well as the 400, but will now have to put those plans on hold.
“I was looking forward to competing in the 100-metre and 200-metre events in Gold Coast, and participating at the (South African) national championships in March, so this is unfortunate timing,” Van Niekerk was quoted on his management company’s website .
“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.”
Van Niekerk, who married his long-term girlfriend this past weekend, was one of the major attractions at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro when he smashed the 400-metres world record with a time of 43.03, beating the long-standing mark set by Michael Johnson in 1999.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis