Rising jumper not keen to steal thunder from Khotso

2011-09-10 18:12

South Africa’s rising long jumper Luvo Manyonga insists that he is not out to knock Khotso Mokoena off his pedestal.

“I look up to Khotso and am not here to take his place as this is just a game,” said Manyonga, who is the country’s top ranked athlete in the horizontal jumps this year.

Mokoena’s unimpressive performance at the just-ended IAAF World Championships in Daegu has seen him lose the aura he once enjoyed as the undisputed king of long jump in Africa.

Manyonga (20), of Maties Stellenbosch University Athletics, finished fifth overall in his debut at the South Korea track and field meet.

A veteran of four championships, Mokoena bombed out in the qualifying round, while Manyonga reached the final against a strong field that boasted the world’s leading jumpers Dwight Phillips of the US and Australian Mitchell Watt.

“There is nothing to be scared of and I discovered during the competition that these guys were just normal human beings,” said Manyonga.

The 2010 IAAF World Junior champion added: “Now that I am in the top five in the world and leading in South Africa this year, that does not make me big. Khotso did not do well this year and this is all part of the game; you win some and lose some.”

As for his game plan this season, the tall jumper from Mbekweni in Paarl, Western Cape said: “The plan was to break the 8.24m mark and go to the world champs, which we did. We tried to get the medal in Daegu but we came short. That is behind us now and we are preparing for the Olympics (in London) next year.”

He jumped to his season best 8.26m in Finland in July.

Behind Manyonga’s impressive form there is his coach Mario Smith. “There is nothing special that we did this year. It is just that he worked hard.

“At the beginning of the year one of the goals that we had set, was to make the top 10 in the world.

And when he jumped 8.21m (during the finals at the world championships in Daegu) I knew we were going to see a good distance from him.”

Smith, who also mentors 400m hurdler Cornel Fredericks, said they had a “good six weeks in Finland” as part of their preparations for the world championships.

“We are thankful to Sascoc (South African Sports Confederations and Olympic Committee) and my university (Stellenbosch) for the support.”

Manyonga will line up in the IAAF World Challenge meet in Berlin, Germany today.

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