CHENNAI: Reigning 400m Olympic champion and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday night.
The South African, who has been at his European training base at Gemona del Friuli since July 19, was scheduled to take part at a meeting in Trieste on Saturday. This was the first time that Niekerk had entered to compete in an event outside South Africa since 2017.
This is the latest in a series of setbacks the 400m specialist has suffered since he won gold at the Worlds in 2017. A serious knee injury during a charity rugby match in late 2017 meant he missed the entirety of the 2018 season.
A niggle kept him out of the 2019 Worlds as he didn't want to take his chances. Before the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, the 27-year-old was taking baby steps to come back on to track, having taken part at a couple of local events in Bloemfontein.
Of the positive test, his manager Peet van Zyl was quoted by Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport as saying: "I don't know how it is possible. Wayde has been training for the whole week and never had any symptom, not even after testing positive. He hasn't had a fever.
"In the last 14 days each of us has been tested four times. the last one was on Thursday. This afternoon (Friday) we asked to be tested again. We want to make sure to be safe and we are waiting for the results. We've always been isolated, we've never been with other people, we have a hotel floor just for us, a dedicated room for breakfast, lunch, dinner.
"We've always avoided any form of aggregation, we only left the hotel to go to the track. This is why we asked for another test, we want to understand," van Zyl added.
The meeting in Trieste is one of the biggest athletic meets amid the pandemic. Katarina Johnson Thompson (heptathlete) and Laura Muir (800m) are scheduled to compete.