Luvo Manyonga (26) was born into a life of socio-economic struggle.
Raised by a single mother, outside Paarl, he took to athletics to escape the hardships of his life. His raw talent was quickly identified by local coach, Mario Smith, who took him under his wing and became a father figure to the gifted Manyonga.
A fairytale career blossomed, which saw Manyonga crowned World Long Jump Junior Champion in 2010. But his story took a dark turn when he fell into the wrong crowd and a TIK (crystal methamphetamine) addiction in 2012. It could have been the end, but in 2014 Manyonga chose to jump, rather than die. He set about making up for the four athletic seasons he had missed.
Two years later and he clinched silver with an impressive 8.23m jump at the 2016 African Championships. We may never know the true courage and willpower it took, but no-one will ever forget Manyonga, standing on the winner’s podium at Rio, beaming as brightly as the silver medal he fought so hard for. That was the start of a new chapter and a new African record of 8.62m, which he set in Pretoria earlier this year.
The next step is sure to be another giant leap forward.
|The hardest lesson I have learnt is that bad company ruins good morals.|