It was the afternoon after the night before and as Luvo Manyonga, the feel-good South African story of these Olympic Games so far, sat next to the country’s sporting dignitaries, he allowed himself to reflect. BY GARY LEMKE
It was a reflection not only on Saturday night in the Olympic stadium, where a final leap of 8.37m seemed to have been enough to win the country’s first gold medal in Rio, until it was snatched away from him by one centimetre, by Jeff Henderson of the United States. Such are the small margins in sport, as in life itself.
“I didn’t really sleep, I’m still on SA time,” a beaming Manyonga told the media in the athlete’s village, flanked by the Minister of
Manyonga’s story has been well documented, but for those who don’t know, here it is in a nutshell: The 25-year-old from Mbekweni township outside Paarl in the Western Cape, has always been a prodigious talent. He won gold at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Canada and looked to have the world at his feet. However, like many teenagers (he was 19) he fell victim to the daily pitfalls of township life and was dragged down. His life quickly spiralled in the wrong direction and he was dragged into the dark world of recreational drugs.
Not only did he serve an 18-month ban but his coach, Mario Smith, was killed in a car accident in 2014. There is more to tell, but that for the young man to reveal in his own time and on his own terms.
“There were thousands of those ‘demons’ on my journey from 2012, but they didn’t catch me,”
“[Last night] I didn’t see a gold medal, I actually tasted it. But then the guy from the US came and took it from my hand, but that’s ok, that’s what competition is. Next year though I will deliver gold [at the World Championships in London].”
Manyonga praised the influence of president Sam in helping turn his life around.
“Gideon came all the way down to Cape Town, then to Paarl and then to Mbekweni and he believed in me. I am a living example of that it’s possible from where I was to where I am today. Thousands of people look up to me, and I’m [hopefully] a motivation to small kids. I like to tell people from the township that everything is possible with God’s help. I tell them to try to reach far,” South Africa’s latest silver medallist said.
And in a message to those back home, he said: “Mom, I made it.”
She always told me: “son, this [medal] is yours. Thank
Mbalula pointed to the power of sport and the difference it can make from
“This Olympic message is that we don’t need to cut budgets.
Photo: Luvo Manyonga of South Africa celebrates after placing second in the men’s Long Jump final of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Athletics, Track and Field events at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13 August 2016. EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON
This story was first published on sascoc.co.za
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