Meet SA’s rising jumper

2014-08-24 15:00

The Western Cape dorpie of Paarl can pride itself not only on being one of the finest wine regions in the world, but as a hub of South African athletics’ long jump talent.

Ruswahl Samaai (22) is the latest find to have emerged from the Cape Winelands town. He follows hot on the trail of his homeboys – 2010 world junior champion Luvo Manyonga (23), former SA and African junior champion Keenan Watson (26) and Regan Julius (28).

Samaai’s rise to the top coincides with the downward spiral of Manyonga, who has been grounded by a bad reputation since he was banned for 18 months from the sport in June 2012 after testing positive for methamphetamine (tik).

Samaai – the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and African Championships bronze medallist – has filled the gap as the latest contender for the throne of leading long jumpers Khotso Mokoena and Zarck Visser.

“I enjoyed a good relationship with Luvo since 2008 when we first established our rivalry and he could easily go over 8m,” said Samaai of Manyonga, who was expected to make a comeback in Glasgow but never did.

Manyonga’s personal best distance of 8.26m makes him the third-best South African long jumper after Mokoena (8.5m) and Visser (8.32m).

“It’s sad on Luvo’s part because he made his own decisions. I resisted the temptations and the friends I chose actually encouraged me to focus on my career. On the other side, God has the plans for my life,” said Samaai.

The lad has enjoyed a remarkable international season the past three months he’s been away from home.

He recorded three 8m jumps thus far – 8.08m and 8.03m at the Commonwealth Games, as well as 8m for a third-place finish on his Diamond League debut in New York in June.

“In order to be the best, I have to put more work in my game. I have gained valuable experience and I am confident I will qualify for the IAAF World Championships [in Beijing, China, next year] and the 2016 Olympic Games [in Rio, Brazil]. My mind is already set on the two competitions and, along with my coach Jenny Kingwill, we want to be the best in the world,” said Samaai.

The second-year transport management student at the University of Johannesburg said being based at the same training facility as Mokoena and Visser has had a positive effect on his game. According to him, Mokoena and Visser “are hard workers”.

The battle for long jump supremacy between these three athletes has on more than three occasions resulted into a 1-2-3 finish on the podium, with Samaai always having to settle for bronze, as was the case at the recently concluded African Championships.

He believes that “the more you practise, the luckier you get”.

“One day my bronze will turn into a gold,” he said.

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