LONDON, August 9, 2017 – Gastroenteritis is not just an unpleasant illness, ironically, it is now something that can turn an athlete into a winner and a star. Isaac Makwala, the 30-year old son of Botswana farmers, will be remembered for his lone sprint in the 200m at the beginning at the 6th day of the World Championships in London.
He will also be remembered by the five push-ups he did after crossing the finish line, a simple message that told the world that, while he was running to the bathroom last Sunday night, he is now as strong as ever. When the athletics season ends, he still works in the fields with his parents – he is not one who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His solitary "recovery" race is also not the first in history.
Last year at the Rio Olympics, the USA 4x100 female relay had dropped the baton because Felix had been shoved by a Brazilian runner at the time of the change. The quartet had repeated the solo test against time, had qualified and then won the gold.
A few months earlier at the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ecuadorian sprinter Angela Tenorio, had been disqualified for a false start in the 100m. She had put in a complaint, the played back images had been on her side and she was allowed to run alone against time. She had to run below 11.77 seconds to qualify for the semi-finals. She got 11.27.
Makwala is now in the final of the 200m and in fact has enjoyed two days of forced rest more than Van Niekerk, who seems to be on his last energy reserves. He is the favorite to win gold, with only the young sprinter from Trinidad Tobago Jereem Richards who can threaten him.
Makwala was annoyed with the IAAF for not letting him run, but instead of falling victim to a plot as someone had called it, he has been accidentally favored by the international federation. He has had two days without fatigue, has avoided the 400m final and these hours of forced rest now make him the 200m golden boy. Gastroenteritis probably brought him luck.