OLYMPIC champion Wayde van Niekerk won on his long-awaited return when he competed in the Galà dei Castelli in Bellinzona, Switzerland, on Tuesday night.

It was his first 400m race abroad in more than three years when he stormed to victory despite a slow start to the race.

Competing at a European Tour Bronze meeting, Van Niekerk won his first international race since earning his second 400m world title in August 2017, as he continues to regain momentum after bouncing back from a long-term knee injury.

Van Niekerk clocked 45.58sec to beat Jochem Dobber of the Netherlands who came second in 45.78 and Karol Zalewski from Poland who clocked 46.03 to finish third.

The Galà dei Castelli in Bellinzona was Van Niekerk’s first competition overseas since injuring his right knee‚ which required reconstructive surgery. 

His return was further halted by testing positive for the coronavirus last month which saw him not being to be able to train for 25 days.That saw him cancelling his planned comeback in Trieste, Italy last month.

The 28-year-old romped to Olympic gold 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 and made a long return.

Van Niekerk’s countryman Akani Simbine won the men’s 100m in 10.02‚ edging Italian Filippo Tortu by five-hundredths of a second.

Ruswahl Samaai downed world champion Tajay Gayle of Jamaica in the men’s long jump‚ but he had to settle for second place after being unseated at the death by unheralded Finn Kristian Pulli.

Samaai‚ the bronze medallist at the 2017 world championships‚ had led since the second round‚ where he floated to 8.03m.

An 8.04 on his next leap entrenched his lead‚ which he held until the final sixth round when Pulli soared to 8.08. Gayle was third on 7.99.

Antonio Alkana took third in the men’s 110m hurdles in 13.40‚ behind American Aaron Mallet and Jason Joseph of Switzerland.