Van Niekerk breezes into 400m final

Van Niekerk breezes into 400m final”

Wayde van Niekerk retained his world 400 meters title in dominant fashion on Tuesday as he stormed to victory in 43.98 seconds but there was nearly as much interest in the empty lane alongside him where Botswana's Isaac Makwala should have been.

Much is expected of Van Niekerk, the world and Olympic champion who smashed American Michael Johnson's world 400m record when winning in Rio last summer in 43.03sec.

Van Niekerk eased up considerably in the straight and enjoyed a playful duel with British runner Daniel Talbot - exchanging grins and then shaking hands just as they crossed the line.

21-year-old Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas claimed the silver (44.41s) with Abdalelah Haroun (44.48s) earning bronze for Qatar.

World record holder Van Niekerk was the overwhelming favourite after Botswana's Isaac Makwala was ruled out of the event and was never really challenged during the final.

The first sign of Makwala's absence came last night when the Botswanan was pulled from his 200m heat on medical grounds - he too had been going for the double with the fastest 200m time in the world this year already under his belt.

"It's an incredible blessing", said Van Niekerk, whom Usain Bolt has pegged as his most likely successor as the athlete capable of dominating the track after the Jamaican sprint star's exit from athletics after these world champs.

That did not stop Makwala trying to get into the stadium before being refused entry.

"I've got a good team who will help me recover well for the 200m and I'm looking forward to that".

Van Niekerk next takes part in the 200m semi-final on Wednesday, where he is favourite to triumph as well following Makwala's withdrawal.

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