Athletics: Van Niekerk set for 200m showdown with Bolt and a shot at world c'ship double

South African athlete Wayde van Niekerk could follow in Michael Johnson's footsteps in winning the 200m and 400m at the same world championships.
South African athlete Wayde van Niekerk could follow in Michael Johnson's footsteps in winning the 200m and 400m at the same world championships.PHOTO: AFP

London (AFP) - South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk will have the chance to emulate Michael Johnson's feat of winning the 200m and 400m at the same world championships following changes to the schedule for August's edition in London.

The first day of a two-day meeting of the council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) saw the global governing body announce on Wednesday that the opening round of the men's 200m has been moved from day five (Aug 8) to day four (Aug 7).

Previously, the 400m final was set to start just hours after the 200m heats, with both races scheduled for late evening on Aug 8.

Now van Niekerk is on course to go against sprint great Usain Bolt, a recent training partner, in the 200m in what is set to be the Jamaican's final major competition before retirement.

The 2017 World Championships in Athletics will take place at London's Olympic Stadium from August 4-13.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said he was "delighted" that the council had made it possible for Olympic 400m champion Van Niekerk, who at last year's Rio Games smashed American track legend Johnson's 17-year-old world record for the one lap event of 43.18 seconds by winning gold in a time of 43.03sec, to have a crack at the double in London.

"These double headers create great excitement among both athletes and fans," said British middle-distance ace Coe, the Olympic 1500m champion at both the 1980 and 1984 Games in Moscow and Los Angeles respectively.

Johnson completed his 200m-400m double at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg.