South African sprint sensation Wayde van Niekerk was pipped to the finish line by Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev in the 200m final at the Athletic World Championships in London on Thursday evening, missing out on the chance to become the first athlete since American great Michael Johnson to win both the 200m and 400m. Johnson achieved this feat in 1995.
It couldn’t have been closer, with both men finishing in 20,06 seconds, but Guliyev edging Van Niekerk by mere inches on the line. Jareem Richards from Trinidad and Tobago was third in 20,11, with Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake taking fourth place for Britain in 20,24.
The race was mired in controversy, after Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, who had to settle for fifth spot, suggested that the IAAF had unfairly quarantined him with an illness so as to allow Van Niekerk to romp to the 400m gold.
“It really did upset me a bit because I have always shown him massive respect and for him to mention my name in something fishy, as an IAAF favourite is unfair,” said a visibly distressed Van Niekerk after the race. “I’ve been putting out great performances for the last two years now, so I think I deserve way more respect from my competitors. I want to compete and I’m not here to make friends, so I learned a great lesson, to focus on myself and not let negative things affect me.”
In a further twist, surprise victor Guliyev, who switched allegiance from Azerbaijan to Turkey in 2011, was forced to defend his adopted country’s doping record, after four of the nine Turkish track and field finalists at the London Olympics were banned either before or subsequently.
This was the first World Championship 200m final without Usain Bolt since 2007. The big Jamaican bowed out of international athletics after the 100m final and his record of 48 victories in 49 races since 2008 is one that Van Niekerk will be looking to match. Even though he had to settle for the silver in the 200m, the South African can be justifiably proud of his achievements in London and must now look to a bright future as the world athletics kingpin.