Illness fails to slow Botswana’s Isaac Makwala at World Championships

Botswana’s Isaac Makwala will go for World Championships gold after overcoming illness, quarantine and two races in little more than two hours to qualify for today’s 200 metres final.

Makwala was on Tuesday night denied the chance to face South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk, the world and Olympic 400m champion, over one lap.

The 30-year-old, who was told he could not take up his place in the 400m final on medical grounds following illness, clocked 20.14 seconds to place second in the first semi-final heat in torrential rain at the London Stadium.

Makwala was an additional athlete in the semi-final heat, running in lane one - not normally used for the event due to the tightness of the bend - after qualifying via a time-trial earlier on Wednesday evening.

He qualified for Thursday’s final behind the United States’ Isiah Young, who won the semi-final in 20.19secs.

Makwala celebrated by raising his right arm aloft.

Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake finished third in 20.19 and had to wait to see if he would be one of two fastest losers from the three semi-final heats.

Van Niekerk, who received his 400m gold just a few minutes after Makwala’s solo time-trial, squeezed through to the final as the second of the two fastest qualifiers, behind Mitchell-Blake.

Makwala had been given medical dispensation to withdraw from the 200m heats on Monday night.

Without a valid reason for pulling out, he could have been disqualified from the 400m final - an event he was forced to miss under protocols imposed by Public Health England.

His 48-hour quarantine expired at 1400BST on Wednesday afternoon and the IAAF accepted a request from Botswana to allow Makwala to try to qualify for the shorter event.

He was given the opportunity to run by himself on Wednesday evening, 25 minutes before the official start to the day six schedule, and had to finish in 20.53 seconds or quicker to advance to the semi-finals later in the evening.

And, despite the torrential rain and cold temperatures at the London Stadium, Makwala advanced in 20.20.

Makwala was roundly cheered by the spectators who had arrived early and celebrated by doing press-ups.

Makwala still feels aggrieved to have missed the 400m final, saying he would have run the 400m alone, too.

He told the BBC: “Yes, I’m running with anger. I still want my 400. That’s my race.

“I’m still running heartbroken. I wish the IAAF had taken the decision for me to run my 400 first, alone. I was ready to run the 400 alone. Then I could run the 200.

“I don’t know who took the decision for me not to run my final 400 - 400 is the race that I’m training for. The 200 I race sometimes.

“I wish to thank the IAAF for giving me another chance and the crowd is so amazing. They made me believe. I just want to thank this crowd. It’s so amazing.”

Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner is the sole Irish competitor in action at the World Championships in London today, the 22-year-old Dubliner going in the heats of the women’s 800m just after 8pm. In truth, it’s highly unlikely she will qualify from the heats, but regardless of how outclassed or outpaced she is, it’s worth remembering how unlikely it was for her to be here.

The 22-year-old earned a place via the IAAF quota dropdown system, which extends invites to the fastest athletes without the qualifying standard in events where extra spaces need to be filled. Cléirigh-Buttner got in via her time of 2:02.11 back in May, but she has been well off that kind of form in recent weeks.

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