Athletics: Van Niekerk wins on return to track in Europe


FILE PHOTO: South Africa's 400m Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk looks on as he attends South African Championships in Germiston, South Africa, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

BELLINZONA, Switzerland (Reuters) - South Africa’s Olympic 400 metres champion Wayde van Niekerk won on his long-awaited return when he competed in the Gala dei Castelli at the Municipal Stadium in Bellinzona on Tuesday.

Van Niekerk ran 45.58 seconds ahead of Jochem Dobber of the Netherlands and Poland's Karol Zalewski in a low-key return after recovering from a debilitating knee injury and then COVID-19.

The 28-year-old romped to Olympic gold four years ago in a world record time of 43.03 seconds but then tore knee ligaments at a charity touch rugby game in October 2017 and made a long return.

He ran a handful of races in South Africa after facing a number of setbacks in his bid to return to the track and a planned comeback outside his home country in Trieste, Italy last month was cancelled when he tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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