In for the high-jump

By admin
23 April 2010

The fluorescent green jacket makes it hard to miss him. Most days Calvin-Lee Maelangwie directs motorists in the parking lot behind the pharmacy in Westdene, Johannesburg – always with a broad grin because a long face doesn’t earn you any money.

But don’t judge this book by its fluorescent cover – because the guy directing you with the practised wave of the arm is none other than South Africa’s new high-jump champion.

It’s clearly no mean achievement for the 22-year-old who some days earns as little as R20 and goes to bed hungry. At last month’s South African Athletics Championships in Durban he showed the country’s best how it’s done with a height of 2,15 m. And that in second-hand high-jump shoes – an improvement on the sprint spikes he used to wear.

“My friend Warren Hendricks, an 800-m athlete, gave me his spikes last year,” he says of his earlier shoes. “I’ve been using any spikes I can get my hands on since high school. I don’t really have a choice.”

But then his coach, CJ Roux, remembered another high-jumper in their training group, Carina du Preez, had bought new shoes last year. He asked her to bring her old shoes to training, hoping they would fit 1,78-m-tall Calvin-Lee. The shoes turned out to be perfect.

“They’re his first pair of high-jump shoes and there was a huge improvement from the first day. Previously he cleared 2,05 m but with the new shoes he’d managed 2,11 in just three weeks and a week later he made 2,2 m,” says CJ, a former SA high-jump champion.

With appropriate shoes on his feet they could now focus on Calvin-Lee’s run-up and other technical aspects – all revelations to him since CJ came into his life last year as his first coach ever.

“I never dreamt the high-jump was so complicated,” Calvin-Lee says. “I’ve always loved jumping but I’ve never been motivated to have big dreams. For me it was always just a case of getting over the crossbar. And when I did it felt great!”

*Read more about Calvin-Lee’s extraordinary triumph in spite of his poverty in YOU, 29 April.

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