After the man from the Western Cape leaped beyond all but American Jeff Henderson in Rio, here’s why we must all be mighty proud of him.
He’s beaten addiction to match the elite
Mbekweni township, in the Western Cape, was not a great place for Manyonga to return to after his success as a junior athlete. Family, friends, hangers-on… everyone wanted a piece of the Boy Done Good. Methamphetamine was his vice, his coping mechanism. Its destructive path led the way to an 18-month ban from the sport, which pales into insignificance when you learn that the drug also nearly killed him. He made it back. So many others in Mbekweni don’t.
He peaked when it really mattered
That fabled, intangible attribute that so often separates the great from the good. Manyonga set a personal best in the Maracana stadium sand pit with his fifth and penultimate jump, beating off the demons in his mind and the immense pressure of an elite field of athletes all around him. And all this after only scraping through the qualifying section. It took American Jeff Henderson’s equally stunning last leap to pip our man to the gold medal.
He made the most of his airtime
No, not on his Vodacom contract, we mean he’s not even from the blood oxygen-boosting, elite training heights of the Highveld. None of that elite Potchefstroom air for this athlete throughout his youth, oh no. Just the scorching-by-day, freezing-by-night of the Paarl Valley, thank you very much. He has since moved to South Africa’s High Performance Centre in Pretoria, aided by Sascoc. But we think he’s rather earned that, don’t you?
He has time on his side
Manyonga is a silver medallist at 25-years-old. He’ll be 29 when the Tokyo Games comes around. Older, wiser, yet not past his prime. It’s perfectly reasonable to think he’ll be an even bigger gold medal hope when the plane takes off for Japan in four years’ time. He’ll have seen it all before, he’s had a taste of the podium… fingers crossed.
He’s ‘in heaven’ when he jumps
Given his life story, given his prowess, given his humility – how could you possibly begrudge a man who just loves to leap with the South African flag on his chest? South Africans all over the world should rejoice in his every success, commiserate with his every setback and feel mighty proud to call Luvo Manyonga one of their own.