Event: Women’s Long Distances Date of birth: 1985/04/09 Personal bests: 800m (2:03.36),...
VAN NIEKERK FACING CANCER BATTLE
Elite ultra-distance runner Riana van Niekerk and her family have been left reeling in shock after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this week.
“I had tests done last Friday and they told me on Tuesday,” said an emotional Van Niekerk.
“I’m devastated. It’s all I can think about at the moment.”
The four-time Comrades gold medallist, who won the Om die Dam 50km race in March, confirmed she had withdrawn from Sunday’s 87.7km race in KwaZulu-Natal, and she would start chemotherapy next week.
“You never expect something like this to happen to your or your family,” said Allie van Niekerk, Riana’s husband and coach.
“She’s young, fit and she eats healthy… and there is no history of cancer in her family. It has come as an absolute shock.”
The running community had thrown its weight behind her, Allie said, particularly on social media.
The 38-year-old athlete had received messages from hundreds of amateur and elite athletes, including last year’s Comrades winner Ellie Greenwood of Great Britain.
A group of runners would wear pink ribbons in support of Van Niekerk during Sunday’s race.
“The support has been unbelievable,” Allie said.