Van Niekerk
Van Niekerk

American track and field legend Micheal Johnson said it would be “very difficult” for Wayde Van Niekerk to defend his Olympic Games 400m title.

“An athlete who misses two seasons through an injury usually takes one season to get back into shape,” the four-time Olympics champion was quoted in the international press.

“Therefore, expectations around Wayde should not be too high as it will be a huge challenge for him to be at his best in Japan,” added Johnson.

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad and commonly known as Tokyo 2020 will be held between July 24 and August 9, 2020.

Van Niekerk, at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, ran from lane eight to win the men’s 400m title in a world record 43.03secs, smashing Johnson’s 43.18secs previous mark.

The South African followed up by defending his 400m world title at London 2017. He, however, has not competed on the international circuit since suffering a knee injury while participating in a celebrity rugby match on the same weekend he got married in October 2017.

“It is mentally tough to stage a comeback in an Olympic year, especially when many of your rivals for medals are clocking really fast times,” said Johnson.

“That is not to say, however, that Wayde has no chance of emulating his feat of four years ago and winning another 400m gold medal.

“He is a special athlete who may not follow the normal patterns of recovery. I guess we will just have to wait and see how he performs,” added Johnson.

Van Niekerk ran his first race, on Monday (17 Feb), winning the 100m and 800m events at a University of Free State (UFS) meet in Bloemfontein.

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