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Wayde van Niekerk regrets celebrity touch rugby match

Olympic champion and 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk has admitted that he regrets playing in the celebrity touch rugby match that left him with a series knee injury in 2017.

Wayde van Niekerk speaks about his injury and recovery process during a press briefing in Johannesburg on 28 February 2019. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Olympic champion and 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk has admitted that he regrets playing in the celebrity touch rugby match that left him with a series knee injury in 2017.

Van Niekerk is on the road to recovery from knee surgery and did not compete for the entire 2018 season, missing South Africa’s successful Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast last year.

The track star was speaking at his renewed sponsorship with telecommunications company T-Systems in Midrand on Thursday. Van Niekerk made what he thought was a low-key return to action in an athletics meeting in Bloemfontein over the weekend where he won his 400m race.

The 26-year-old van Niekerk says he regrets playing in the touch rugby match that saw him tear both his meniscus and anterior cruciate ligaments.

WATCH: Wayde van Niekerk talks Caster Semenya v IAAF

“Every athlete regrets any injury that comes their way. It is definitely something that dwelled with me for months and it was something that I personally had to overcome. My reality (with the injury) is what it is, and I need to come back stronger and I can’t be carrying extra baggage when I want to come back stronger.”

Though van Niekerk is kicking himself for the injury that has slowed his career down a touch, he is equally optimistic about returning to his best form that saw him obliterate Michael Johnson’s 400m record in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, running a time of 40.03 seconds.

“I feel like I can still get back to my best form, mentally I feel strong, but it is about patience with the body now that isn’t quite 100% yet. I am realistic about what I want to achieve but it is going to take time and I need to remain patient throughout that process.”

Van Niekerk was also coy about his participation in the Athletics World Championships in Doha in October, saying he would judge it based on his progress throughout the year but his main target is the Olympic Games in Tokyo Japan in 2020.

“It would be nice to be in Doha later in the year but I can't tell just yet if I will be there for sure but my main target is the Olympic Games in Japan next year and I will be working as hard as I can to make sure I’m in good shape for that.”

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