Wayde van Niekerk Pulls Up Limping in the 200, Isiah Young Upsets Noah Lyles at 2021 adidas Boost Boston Games

By Jonathan Gault
May 23, 2021

While some of track & field’s biggest names were in Gateshead today for the Diamond League season opener, another cadre of stars headed to the streets of Boston for the adidas Boost Boston Games. And while there were big wins for Shaunae Miller-Uibo (22.08 in the women’s 200), Keni Harrison (12.49 in the women’s 100 hurdles), and Grant Holloway (13.20 in the men’s 110 hurdles), the news was not as good for Noah Lyles and Wayde van Niekerk.

Lyles, running the men’s 100 meters, was looking for his first victory at that distance in 2021 after defeats at the Tom Jones Invitational in Gainesville and the USATF Grand Prix in Eugene. But that first win would have to wait as 31-year-old American Isiah Young jumped out to an early lead and was never challenged, running 9.94 — tied for #3 on the world list this year and just .02 off his personal best from 2018. Lyles, meanwhile, could not close the gap late as he often does and wound up a well-beaten second in 10.10.

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“It’s really just about getting more and more races under my belt,” Lyles said after the race. “We’ll probably do one more race and then we’ll shut it down until Trials. I’m just going straight back to practice. To be honest, this is my first year being with coach in an Olympic year, so this is all kind of new. But I have complete faith that I’m going to be ready when the time comes.”

van Niekerk limped around after crossing the finish line in the 200m

The day was even worse for van Niekerk, the 2016 Olympic 400-meter champion and world record holder, who pulled up lame roughly 30 meters from the finish line of the men’s 200 meters. van Niekerk, running in his first race since relocating to Florida two weeks ago to join coach Lance Brauman‘s training group, was running close to Canada’s Jerome Blake and Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes when he began to slow and eventually limp across the finish line in fourth in 20.86 (Blake won in 19.89; the Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner, the 400m world champion, was a pre-race scratch).

van Niekerk continued limping after crossing the finish line, reluctant to put weight on his right leg, ultimately sitting down rather than immediately walk off the track like the rest of his competitors.

Afterwards, NBC’s Lewis Johnson reported that van Niekerk was doing better and was able to walk back to the meet hotel without limping.

“[His coach] Lance [Brauman] said that he got a little tight in his right hip and Wayde decided not to push through the rest of the run,” Johnson said on the NBC broadcast. “He said that was the right decision, but he assured me that Wayde would be okay.”

Still, the incident was concerning considering van Niekerk missed all of 2018 and most of 2019 after a devastating knee injury to the same leg, tearing his meniscus and ACL in October 2017. Prior to the meet, van Niekerk had spoken positively about his early-season races in South Africa this spring, including a 20.10 (+2.1) victory at 200 meters in Roodepoort on March 30, his fastest 200 under any conditions since June 2017. Today’s race was not a step in the right direction.

Earlier in the day, Nikki Hiltz (4:31) and Clayton Murphy (4:01) earned victories in the road mile, Murphy prevailing by just .17 of a second in a sprint finish over Sam Prakel. Both athletes were doubling back from the 800m at the NYC Qualifier on Friday night, where Hiltz ran 2:01.82 to finish second and Murphy clocked 1:47.29 to take seventh.

In the road 600, Jamaica’s Natoya Goule upset American Ajee’ Wilson, running 1:24 to Wilson’s 1:26, while Canada’s Marco Arop took the men’s 600 in 1:15 as American Bryce Hoppel was a pre-meet scratch.

In the high school boys Dream Mile, US sophomore record holder Rheinhardt Harrison faded to a 4th place finish. In the high school boys 100s, Jaylen Slade, who three weeks ago ran a windy 10.04 (+2.1), was only third today in 10.47 (-1.2 m/s)

Full meet results can be found here.

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