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Manyonga is Team SA’s man of the moment with a memorable silver

Athletics - Olympics: Day 8

By Mark Etheridge

One tiny centimetre stood between Team South Africa’s first gold medal at these 2016 Olympic Games after long jumper Luvo Manyonga leapt to the rainbow nation’s fourth silver on Saturday night.
Until now, swimming (three) and rowing (one) have brought silverware to the medals table while sevens rugby served up a bronze.
And for a few yawning minutes Manyonga’s sixth and final leap of 8.37 metres seemed to have broken the gold drought.
Almost too scared to watch, Manyonga lay flat on his back gazing up into the Rio night as he dared to dream of gold.
And then it all came down to earth again as American Jeff Henderson turned South Africa’s golden hopes into silver with a final jump of his own that saw him launch himself 8.38m into the sandpit and seal the gold.
Manyonga’s mission to get here in the first place though is pure gold in itself as, after winning long jump gold at the World Junior Championships in Canada back in 2010, sank into the pits of despair brought on by a rapid addiction to recreational drug tik.
That saw him served with an 18-month ban which put him on the sidelines. There was also further personal heartache as one of the men who believed in him most ardently, Maties athletics coach Mario Smith, was killed in a car crash in mid 2014. It was Smith who took Manyonga under his wings and gave him a place to live and put food on his table.
Manyonga played credit to two men in particular who have played a part in his remarkable Phoenix-like rise.
‘I don’t know where he is right now but this one is definitely for you, coach Mario,’ he said shortly after his silver effort. ‘And Mr Gideon Sam, the SASCOC President, has always stood by me and for this I thank him.
‘And I must also thank my mom Joyce and my son Lindokhule (he’s five years old)… it’s too early in the morning SA time to phone them but they’ll be hearing from me very soon.’
Manyonga also thanked the HPC in Pretoria and Tukssport for standing by him and believing in him. ’The demons have been trying to pull me down but look at my face… look at me standing here.
‘When I jumped 8.28 in my fourth attempt I wasn’t nervous, even though it gave me the lead. I was relaxed, and I just knew the big jump was coming.’
What’s next up for Manyonga, the life and soul of every travelling athletics group he joins on international duty. ‘That will be Brussels and long term I’m still wanting that world record. It’s coming.’
Sports fans back home will be hoping that Mayonga’s comeback from the sinkhole to silver will inspire the rest of Team South Africa to strike gold for the first time at these Games.

Picture of Manyonga’s moment, courtesy of Getty Images


92 comments
Fred Fautley
Fred Fautley

He was so unlucky not to have won gold. 1 c m difference and on the winners last jump as well \U0001f3c5

Ferry Dasoi
Ferry Dasoi

So proud of u man and thank u!\U0001f44d

Roelien Schomper-Coetzee
Roelien Schomper-Coetzee

You have made us proud and deserved the gold! You had it in your grasp! Well done! It was an amazing competition to watch!

Jenny Dinsdale
Jenny Dinsdale

So proud of what you have made of your 2nd chance

Theresa Singh
Theresa Singh

Well done...you made us so proud. You were so close to bagging the gold medal ...silver is good.

Valerie Cook
Valerie Cook

He so nearly took the gold so so proud, well done.

Lesley Schnaid
Lesley Schnaid

Wonderful. Congratulations to you and South Africa. Proud of you.

Lee Chapman
Lee Chapman

What an achievement, and NBC which covers the Olympics in the US did not even mention his name, So unfortunately one eyed.

Lesanne De Bruyn
Lesanne De Bruyn

And he comes from Mbekweni just outside Wellington where I live. Well done !!!

Slow Town Liquors
Slow Town Liquors

What a nice man, too. Talking with the media. Fantastic stuff.

Jenny Petzer
Jenny Petzer

\U0001f44f\U0001f44f\U0001f44f \U0001f3ca well done, 'super star!'

Elmarie Bessinger
Elmarie Bessinger

I salute you Luvo! Achieving greatness and defeating the odds. Keep on standing tall!

Mbulelo Mbuja Mgoqi
Mbulelo Mbuja Mgoqi

Well done.... U make us proud aphe #Mbekweni #all the #way #2Luvo #uyibaba

Amelda Cloete
Amelda Cloete

Oh my goodness! I'm so proud of this man! It's never to late ro go after your dreams! In my book you are Gold!

Jim Yeomans
Jim Yeomans

Great show, great commitment. You deserve your success.

Debbie Botha Hughes
Debbie Botha Hughes

Wow we are so proud of you, really thought you had gold in the bag, but still an incredible achievement \U0001f44d\U0001f3fc

Jinty Torr Ford
Jinty Torr Ford

Flipping fantastic you beaut!!!!! What a phenomenal achievement!!!

Lesley Munro van Staden
Lesley Munro van Staden

You have your eye on gold. You will get there. Congratulations. You have done us proud.

Gift Mpho T Mpiti
Gift Mpho T Mpiti

Well done \U0001f44f\U0001f44f\U0001f44f\U0001f44f\U0001f44f\U0001f44f

Kim Charles
Kim Charles

That is the best story so proud of this incredible young man xxx

Karen Zerbini
Karen Zerbini

Well done......you guys make us and S.A. so proud.....Great work.

Joh Meyer
Joh Meyer

Danie Cornelius saam met julle trots, baie geluk!! Groete

Shanon Agulhas
Shanon Agulhas

Congratulations! You have beat the odds and worked hard for this moment!