- Associated Press - Monday, August 7, 2017

LONDON (AP) - Given that it was only a preliminary round and Wayde van Niekerk would hate to be a rude guest, he slowed up just enough for a sprinter from Britain to finish even with him at the line.

Almost worked.

But there will be no slowing down now for the South African sprinter, who is going for the 200-400 double at the world championships this week. He made it through the first round of the 200 on Monday, easing up at the finish and sharing a smile with British runner Daniel Talbot, who lost to Van Niekerk by .001 seconds and shook hands after.

It was all part of Van Niekerk’s plan to conserve energy. He has the 400 final on Tuesday.

“That’s not easy,” Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake said of Van Niekerk’s double. “The 400 is no joke. You have to have a lot of guts. He’s my friend and I wish him my best.”

The last time Van Niekerk was in a 400 final on this sort of stage, a record was shattered. He broke American sprinter Michael Johnson’s mark last August in Rio de Janeiro. Van Niekerk finished in 43.03 seconds that night - 0.15 seconds faster than Johnson ran on Aug. 26, 1999, in Seville, Spain.

A repeat may be far-fetched.

In Brazil, Van Niekerk wasn’t attempting this kind of double. He’s had a busy week chasing after two titles, running heats to advance in the 400 on Saturday and Sunday, along with the 200 prelim on Monday. He had a little fun even as he approached the finish line. Talbot closed the gap almost all the way as the sprinters shared a grin.

“He’s a great guy, great athlete,” Talbot said. “It’s nice he’s doing so well and he wants me to do well. We’re competitors. I’ve got to try to beat him.”

A look at Day 5 of the world championships:

HIGH NOTE: The pole vault world-record holder from France isn’t the favorite in the final. Renaud Lavillenie started his season a little late because of an injury. That promotes Sam Kendricks of the United States to the role of vaulter to beat. He captured silver at the world indoors and an Olympic bronze in Brazil. “I want to complete the full set here,” Kendricks said. His biggest challengers will be defending world champion Shawn Barber of Canada and Swedish teenager Armand Duplantis, who has one of the world’s best marks this season. Don’t overlook Lavillenie, either.

POWER CZECH: At 36, Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic is still going strong in the women’s javelin. She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist, including a win at this stadium during the 2012 London Games. But there’s a new thrower in the ranks - 22-year-old Sara Kolak of Croatia. She won Olympic gold in Rio.

HERE’S THE STEEPLE: American steeplechaser Evan Jager looks to become the first runner not from Kenya to win the event since 2005. It won’t be easy with defending champion Ezekiel Kemboi in the field. Jager captured a surprise Olympic silver last year, when he lost by a second to Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya.

TWO LAPS: With defending 800-meter champion David Rudisha of Kenya not in the field, the race is wide open. It could be just the opening for Nijel Amos of Botswana. He won three races on the Diamond League circuit last month.

RETURN TO THE TRACK: Tori Bowie’s scrapes are healing after her dive to win the 100 meters. In this case: No pain, no gold. Now, it’s time to turn the page. The American sprinter is listed on the entry sheet for the 200. Bowie has the top mark this season. The defending champion is Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands.


More AP track coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/London2017

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