Athletics

Luvo Manyonga: From tik addict to Rio

Luvo Manyonga  Foto: luigi bennett, backpagepix
Luvo Manyonga Foto: luigi bennett, backpagepix

Pretoria - South African long jumping's prodigal son Luvo Manyonga has returned after a long battle with the drug methamphetamine - or tik as it is commonly known - and he hopes to get his promising career back on track.

Three years since Manyonga tested positive for tik and served a subsequent 18-month ban, the long jump talent has suffered a host of setbacks.

His long-time coach and father figure, Mario Smith, died in a car accident in June 2014.

"I almost lost everything and I was doing stuff that is unimaginable to normal human beings, but I want to thank God for leading me to where I am today and I appreciate the help from SASCOC," Manyonga told Sport24.

"The first thing is you have to accept that you are powerless over the addiction and ask for help and move away from the environment.

"It is behind me and I decided I can't take it anymore in Cape Town because that is where I hook myself up with the devil."

Manyonga rose to prominence in 2010 when he won the IAAF Junior World Championships title before beating long jump legend Khotso Mokoena for the 2011 national crown.

His personal best leap of 8.26m in 2011 is the fourth best distance by a South African while he also finished in a creditable fifth place at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu that year.

Despite all the strife, there were people looking after the athlete with strength and conditioning coach John McGrath initially helping the athlete.

While the training kept Manyonga fit it was not specifically focused on long jump and SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) president Gideon Sam took a personal interest in Manyonga's plight.

"I was stressing about my son, I'm telling you... just before he was nabbed for tik I went to his place in Paarl and I found a very dysfunctional family there," Sam said.

"I took him to the local stadium there and he said 'if only I can get someone to look after me', so told him that he needed to get out of that place."

Sam said he kept in touch with the athlete and he has been looking for a coach that would guide Manyonga back to a level where he would once again take on the world.

SASCOC arranged for Manyonga to be accommodated at University of Pretoria's High Performance Centre at the Olympic body's expense.

"The thing is I need to get him ready for the All Africa Games and if he can jump there, it will put him on track for the Olympics," Sam said.

"Even now in practice he jumps eight metres... so the talent is there and that is why I needed to get involved on a personal level."

After only a week in his new environment Manyonga is feeling bullish about his future prospects with his sights set qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

"The Olympic Games are in my sights and I want to show the world that this addiction can be beaten," Manyonga said.

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