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Francis says Van Niekerk can go sub sub-43

Published:Saturday | August 5, 2017 | 8:36 PMHubert Lawrence
South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk.
Javon Francis

At last year's Olympic Games, Wayde Van Niekerk brought the 43 second barrier within reach with a super time of 43.03 seconds. Like many observers, Jamaica's Javon Francis thinks the super South African can go faster. Moreover, Francis is looking for Van Niekerk to highlight the 16th World Championships in London with a 200 - 400 metres double.

Speaking in St Catherine on August 3, Francis, twice Jamaica champion at 400m, said, "yes, most definitely, Van Niekerk can go sub-43 this year because he is in pretty decent form." After citing the South African's 2017 times at 100m, 200m and 400m -- 9.94, 19.84 and 43.62 seconds respectively, Francis offered, "Probably he'll break the record again."

That impressive portfolio also contains the fastest run of all time in the 300 metres. In Ostrava, on June 28, the 25 year-old virtuoso clocked 30.81 seconds. That lowered the old mark by 0.04 seconds.

The Jamaican thinks the fast pair of American Fred Kerley and Isaac Makwala of Botswana will find Van Niekerk hard to handle. Though they have times of 43.70 and 43.84 seconds respectively, Francis gives Van Niekerk the nod for the World Championship final he thinks will be 'a cracker' despite the South African also running the 200m.

"He will still win because what van Niekerk has over most athletes is that he knows how to distribute the rounds, semi and so on."

"He can do it," he emphasised.

Makwala actually defeated his continental rival at the 2014 African Championships but Kerley is a complete newcomer to international athletics.

The 2009 World Champion, LaShawn Merritt of the United States, is another medal contender.

Having raced the reigning 400m World champions over the last few years, Francis has an insight on why Van Niekerk is attempting the 400/200m double. "Van Niekerk is a person who likes to have challenges," Francis analysed.

Anyone attempting that such combination faces a tough schedule. It comprises the 400m first round and semi-finals on August 5 and 6 respectively, the 200m first round on August 7, the 400m final on August 8 and then the 200m semi-final and final on August 9 and 10.

The South African cruised home in his first round 400m race in 45.27 seconds yesterday.