The 400m Olympic Champion and World Record Holder, Wayde van Niekerk, is set to return to South Africa after completing a month-long successful rehabilitation programme at Qatar’s orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital, Aspetar.
Placed under the observation of his fellow countrymen, Dr Louis Holtzhausen, Sports Physician at Aspetar, the South African champion was admitted for rehabilitation to regain his muscle strength following a knee operation to repair an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear sustained while playing a rugby match in Cape Town. The injury forced him to withdraw from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Speaking during his visit, Niekerk said: “It’s been a great experience so far. Right after my operation, I reached out to Dr Louis who practised in Bloemfontein where I grew up. He opened his door for us to come here (to Aspetar) and continue the rehab. It was a no-brainer for us to come here to get my rehabilitation running as soon as possible after my operation. The services I received at Aspetar were world-class and I’m feeling very positive about my recovery.”
The ACL tear will leave Niekerk off sprinting for some time, but the 25-year-old is aiming to return stronger than ever to compete in the upcoming championships and looking forward to taking part in the 2019 World Championships in Athletics in Doha. Niekerk said the major sporting event will be a “great starting point” for him to get back on his feet.
“I see this as an opportunity to have a strong comeback after my injury. I’m very motivated now and very hungry to achieve greater things for myself. I think Doha would be a great starting point for me to get back and gain my confidence as an athlete and continue to dominate in every event I do,” he said.
Having won two medals at the World Championships in London and the 300m race with a world-breaking record of 30.81 seconds in Ostrava last June, the young star’s performance earned him a well-deserved included in shortlist for this year’s 2017 IAAF Best Athlete of the Year award. The award eventually went to Qatar’s high jumping star Mutaz Essa Barshim.
Speaking about the competition, Niekerk said: “The quality of the athletes was quite amazing. I can’t really compare us because every athlete is great in his own right. I’ve got great respect for Mutaz [Barshim] and for Mo Farah. I’m a fan of Barshim as well so I’m glad that he had that opportunity and that blessing. It’s great to see that everyone in the track and field is being celebrated. Hopefully this will spark a small competition among us and help keep our standards high.”
Commenting on the growing Qatari sporting talent, Niekerk noted that he’s had a chance to meet a few Qatari athletes, including Barshim and hurdler Abderrahaman Samba, saying: “I’ve seen new and upcoming athletes and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more Qatari athletes rise up by the time we get to the 2019 World Championships in Athletics in Doha. There are amazing facilities around here and I’m looking forward to seeing the atmosphere in 2019,” he added.
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