Olympic gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk admitted that he is far more concerned over the coronavirus crisis than the Tokyo Olympics postponement.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Tuesday that the global showpiece would be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 “but no later than summer 2021”.
This comes after several calls were made for the Games to be postponed, which saw Canada and Australia withdrew their teams.
Van Niekerk, who shattered Michael Johnson’s long-standing 400m record at the 2016 Rio Games, insists that there are more important issues affecting the world right now.
“My focus right now isn’t on exactly what races to prepare for,” admitted Van Niekerk on Tuesday.
“For us in the world, we just need to stay healthy for now… and to not spread the virus. I think that’s really more important than any training and racing now.”
Van Niekerk suffered a knee injury in 2017 while playing a celebrity touch rugby match in Cape Town.
The 27-year-old has not competed internationally since then but was understood to be on track for Tokyo.
Van Niekerk believes the postponement of the 2020 Games will give him enough time to get into better shape as he looks to defend his 400m title.
“I try and see the positive in it and I see it as more time to prepare, work and invest in the rest of my career,” he said.
“Tokyo is just another stepping stone to the entire legacy that I want to leave behind… This gives me more time to strengthen myself so that I can be in even better shape for the Olympic Games.
“As much as it is a bit of a downer having it not happen this year, it’s still going to happen… I don’t see it as a total loss, it’s more time to work.”
Van Niekerk revealed that he would be in communication with veteran coach Ans Botha on his regiment during South Africa’s 21-day lockdown.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced a 21-day lockout for South Africans – from 23:59 on Thursday until 16 April.
Van Niekerk pleaded all South Africans to stay at home in order to put this “scary stage” behind us.
“Let’s use these next 21 days of lockdown to reflect… look after yourself and consider everyone around you,” he said.
“Let’s try an isolate and stay indoors as much as possible so we can put this scary stage in every single one of our lives behind us.”
– Compiled by Lynn Butler