Reigning Olympic 400m champion and world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk will make his season debut over his preferred distance at WACT/Europe Silver Meeting Madrid 2021 on Saturday 19 June. The South African will join triple jump world record setters Yulimar Rojas and Hugues Fabrice Zango at Vallehermoso Stadium in Madrid.

Five years ago, at 2016 Olympics in Rio, Van Niekerk made history over the quarter mile. With long and beautiful strides – poetry in motion –, the then-24-year-old sprinter ran the full lap at the Olympic Stadium in just 43.03 seconds, rubbing United States’ legend Michael Johnson out of the record books.

That was the second highlight in Van Niekerk’s career. In 2015, he claimed 400m gold at World Championship in Beijing and 12 months after his Olympic success, he won a second global 400m title in London – where the South African quartermiler also took silver in 200m.

By then, Van Niekerk had already become the only athlete to run sub-10 seconds in 100m, sub-20 in 200m and sub-44 in 400m. He was called to be first man to break the 43 seconds-barrier over the lap.

However, he tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus cartilage in his right knee while playing a charity rugby match in October 2017.

Due to that injury, Van Niekerk missed 2018 and 2019 seasons. In 2020 he made a comeback to competition but struggled to race close to his best times. Earlier this year he moved to Florida and joined Lance Brauman’s sprint camp, where he is training alongside American 200m world champion Noah Lyles and Bahamian 400m Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo. Last March, the 28-year-old South-African clocked 20.10 in the 200m – a time which was well inside the Olympic qualifying standard of 20.24 but that was aided by a following wind of 2.1m/s.

On Saturday 19 June, Van Niekerk will race for the first time in Spain and will try to reach the 400m Olympic standard of 44.90.

Spain’s fab five quartermilers

Victory will not come easy, though, as Van Niekerk will be joined in Madrid by Colombia’s Anthony Zambrano, who claimed silver at 2019 World Championship in Doha as he set an area record of 44.15. Olympic silver and world bronze medalist (in 2012 and 2013) Luguelín Santos, who owns a personal best of 44.11 since 2015, is also confirmed.

Spain’s five best quartermilers in 2021 will complete the field as they will also try to secure an Olympic spot in the 4x400m relay the day before.

20-year-old Bernat Erta leads the Spanish 400m ranking with a personal best of 45.74, followed by reigning European indoor champion Óscar Husillos with a 45.83 season best and Manuel Guijarro with 45.98, all the three marks set in Huelva on 3 June. Samuel García (46.00 in 2021) and Lucas Búa (46.40) are the fourth and fifth members of the team.

WACT/Europe Silver Meeting Madrid 2021 will begin at 19:30h local time and will last until 22:00h and will be broadcasted live on TV in Spain on Teledeporte. International broadcast and livestream details will be announced closer to the competition dates.

The meeting will stage 14 disciplines – the 200m, 1500m, steeplechase, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, triple jump and hammer for women, and the 100m, 400m, 800m, 110m hurdles, pole vault, triple jump and javelin for men.