Olympic 400m champion Wayde Van Niekerk wins on return to track in Europe

Wayde Van Niekerk continues his return from torn knee ligaments. GUILLEM SARTORIO/AFP via Getty Images

South Africa's Olympic 400 metres champion Wayde van Niekerk won on his long-awaited return when he competed in the Gala dei Castelli at the Municipal Stadium in Bellinzona on Tuesday.

Van Niekerk, 28, clocked 45.58 seconds, ahead of Jochem Dobber of the Netherlands and Poland's Karol Zalewski, in a low-key return after recovering from a debilitating knee injury and then COVID-19.

Van Niekerk romped to the Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro four years ago, in a world-record time of 43.03 seconds, but then tore knee ligaments at a charity touch rugby game in October 2017.

He ran a handful of races in South Africa after facing a number of setbacks in his bid to return to the track, and a planned comeback outside his home country in Trieste, Italy, last month was cancelled when he tested positive for the COVID-19.