SA's champion long-Jumper

By Drum Digital
11 August 2010

HIS heart was racing as the packed stadium watched him. With just one jump left Luvo Manyonga knew he had to banish his self-doubt, ignore his niggling knee injury and give this leap everything he had. He thought of his family back home and with the good luck wishes of his mother ringing in his ears, the slender young man took off like a bullet and sped towards the long-jump pit.

As his foot hit the take-off board he soared into the air like a man with springs under his feet. And no sooner had he hit the sand than he realised he’d done it: he’d become the long-jump champion of the IAAF World Junior Athletics Championships in Moncton, Canada. That jump sent the 19-year-old to a gold-medal leap and saw him soar past the much-fancied Eusebio Cáceres of Spain.

The sensational victory and his joyous celebrations immediately endeared him to everyone watching, both at the stadium and on television screens around the world. And he became a hero in his home township of Mbekweni near Paarl in the Western Cape.

“The response has been really overwhelming,” he says as he greets DRUM outside his home in Mbekweni. “Since returning from Canada my life has changed. I swear I’ve done about 15 interviews with journalists in the past week alone. Before that nobody knew who I was.

”The soft-spoken youngster made history by becoming only the second person from Africa to secure a medal in the horizontal jump in the history of the World Junior Championships. And he looks set to go on to even greater things after he jumped 8,19 m in Germany last month, shortly before going to Canada, to break the South African junior record set by Olympic and World Championships silver medallist, Khotso Mokoena.

“If there’s one person who relishesmyachievement more than I do it’s my mother,” he says. “She’s very proud of me.”

With that he insists we drive to mom Eunice’s workplace in Paarl so that he can have a picture taken with her. No sooner have we arrived than she comes charging out the house where she is a domestic worker and runs towards him with her arms outstretched.

Read the full article in DRUM of 19 August 2010

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