Wayde van Niekerk's comeback stalls after COVID-19 positive in Italy

South Africa's 400 metre world record holder Wayde van Niekerk has hit another bump on his path to a return to big-time athletics as he returned a positive test for COVID-19 ahead of an event in Italy.


World Athletics announced some changes to its Olympic qualifying rules this week as the sport seeks to return to empty-arena events.


The international athletics season has returned with the latest event being the 13th Triveneto Meeting in Trieste.

Wayde van Niekerk tests positive for COVID-19


Van Niekerk was set to take to an international athletics track for the first time since a freak injury during a 2017 charity touch rugby game derailed the Olympic Champion's career.


The latest setback came as a big shock to van Niekerk who has not experienced any symptoms of COVID-19, a common theme among many athletes who have been found to have been infected.


"I don't know how it's possible. Wayde has been training for the whole week and never had any symptom, not even after testing positive. He hasn't had a fever," the 28-year-old's manager Peet Van Zyl told Italian sporting news publication Gazzetta dello Sport.


Van Niekerk had returned to the track at the Athletics South African National Championships in February, easing to victory against an inexperienced field.


The elite athletics calendar has been thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic with several IAAF Diamond League and other World Athletics sanctioned events cancelled or postponed with new dates not yet clear.


Update: A second test was conducted on Saturday which has since come back negative but van Niekerk was not allowed to compete at the event.

Road to Tokyo


World Athletics has launched a document entitled 'Road to Tokyo', to help athletes plot a course to the postponed Olympic games through the uncertainty of the pandemic.


The principles of Olympic qualification remain unchanged with athletes able to qualify through entry standards and then the World Athletics World Rankings.


Athletes who have already met the entry standard since the start of the original qualification period in 2019 will remain qualified and will be eligible for selection by their respective Member Federations and National Olympic Committees. Other athletes who will qualify within the extended qualification period will become eligible for selection, as always just qualifying for the games does not gauarantee that an athlete will compete with National Olympic Committees setting their own criteria for the final selection of squads.


The uneven nature of training and competition opportunities around the world during the coronavirus pandemic has seen World Athletics announce that the qualification period (for all events) was suspended from 6 April to 30 November 2020.