LONDON — On a chilly summer night, the South African star Wayde van Niekerk successfully defended his 400-meter title at the world track and field championships on Tuesday. But his biggest potential obstacle to winning gold, Isaac Makwala of Botswana, ...
Two of the cases, according to the public health agency, were confirmed by laboratory testing to be norovirus, which is often transmitted by close contact or by touching contaminated surfaces.
Wayde van Niekerk, center, had plenty of cushion as he crossed the finish line on Tuesday. Credit Richard Heathcote/Remote, via Getty ImagesIt was unclear whether Makwala was one of those with norovirus. In a statement released on Tuesday night, the sport’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, said it was following government health regulations in requesting that Makwala be “quarantined in his room for 48 hours.”
It said the quarantine was set to end by 2 p.m. Wednesday, too late for Makwala, one of the top contenders in the 200 and the 400, to continue participating in either event. He was withdrawn from the opening round of the 200 on Monday because of the illness.
“The I.A.A.F. is very sorry that the hard work and talent of Isaac Makwala won’t be on display tonight, but we have to think of the welfare of all athletes,” the federation said in its statement.
Makwala told the BBC that although he had vomited before the 200 heats, he was able to compete. Though he said he had not been tested, the I.A.A.F. indicated that the decision to withdraw him from the two events had been made after an examination conducted at the stadium on Monday by “a qualified doctor.”
In an interview with Britain’s ITV News, Makwala suggested that he might have been allowed to compete if he had been from the host nation.
“I asked myself, ‘What if I was a Great British guy, would they not allow me to run?’” he said. “I don’t think they would not allow me to run. If they saw the guy had potential, they are going to allow him to run.”
Van Niekerk, who will run in the 200-meter final on Wednesday, might very well have still won with Makwala present and at full strength. Van Niekerk, 25, did break Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record in the 400 by winning gold in 43.03 seconds at last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Still, Makwala has been in rare form this season.
Last month in Madrid, he became the first man to run a sub-20-second time in the 200 and a sub-44-second time in the 400 on the same day, as he finished in 19.77 and 43.92. Makwala also came close to beating Van Niekerk in a 400 in Monaco.
But only one men’s double at the world championships is still possible. Van Niekerk won the gold medal in the 400 on Tuesday, easing off to finish in 43.98 seconds. Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas was a distant second at 44.41, with Abdalelah Haroun of Qatar third in 44.48.
“He was in great, great form,” van Niekerk said of Makwala. “I believe he would have done very well in these championships. I have so much sympathy for him.”
Van Niekerk seemed unconcerned about having come into close contact with Makwala.
“I saw him just before the 200-meter heats, and the only think I could think of was just wrapping my arms around him and saying he should get well soon,” he said.
Van Niekerk now has a chance to become the first man to complete the 200-400 double at the world championships since Johnson in 1995. Van Niekerk will run in the 200 semifinals on Wednesday night and, if he qualifies, the final on Thursday night.
“The body seems to be ready, and I’ll give it my best shot,” he said.
Track and Field,van Niekerk Wayde (1992- ),Kipruto Conseslus (1994- ),Jager Evan (1989- )