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Wayde van Niekerk misses comeback meet after coronavirus concerns

16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 - Day Five

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08: Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa celebrates after winning the Men’s 400 metres final during day five of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 at The London Stadium on August 8, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Wayde van Niekerk did not race in his scheduled international comeback meet in Italy on Saturday after coronavirus concerns.

Van Niekerk, the Olympic 400m champion and world-record holder returning from leg injuries, reportedly tested positive for the virus on Thursday, then had a negative test on Friday but was still held out of the meet. He was on the start list but was a DNS (did not start) on the results page.

Van Niekerk’s agent confirmed Friday that a member of the sprinter’s group, which arrived in Italy from South Africa earlier in July and had been quarantining, tested positive for the virus. Van Niekerk’s agent did not specify if the person who tested positive was van Niekerk.

Since arriving in Italy, each member of the group had “a number of tests” that all came back negative before Thursday, the agent said.

Van Niekerk’s last international race was the 200m at the 2017 World Championships, where he took silver following a 400m gold.

Two months after worlds, van Niekerk tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in a non-contact injury playing a celebrity tag rugby match in his native South Africa.

Van Niekerk raced domestically, in Bloemfontein, in February 2019 and February 2020, but setbacks rebuilding his knee strength prevented an international return last summer.

Van Niekerk, after breaking Michael Johnson‘s world record with a 43.03 in Rio, is bidding to become the first person to repeat as Olympic 400m champion since Johnson in 2000.

Last year, American Michael Norman and Bahamian Steven Gardiner established themselves as Olympic favorites, becoming the first men other than van Niekerk to break 43.50 seconds since 2007.

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