Editorials 15.8.2016 07:00 am

Manyonga took a much longer leap to Olympic glory

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13:  Luvo Manyonga of South Africa competes during the Men's Long Jump Final on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Luvo Manyonga of South Africa competes during the Men's Long Jump Final on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

His story is the kind that movies are made of.

Luvo Manyonga jumped his way into not just the history books on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, but was firmly launched into the hearts of most South Africans too.

His story – of coming from a little-known township in the Western Cape, showing immense promise as a youngster and then having to overcome a career-threatening addiction to tik – is the kind that movies are made of.

The difference between his silver Olympic medal and gold was nothing more than a centimetre, but it was the distance he travelled in his personal life that South Africans will remember him for most.

Interviews with his family and friends revealed they believed he would succumb to the effects of the devastating drug. But instead of dying from an overdose in a dark room with a light bulb beside him, Manyonga had the big stadium lights and the world’s cameras trained on him for a moment of utter glory.

Credit for the Olympian’s success should also go to his coaches Neil Cornelius, John McGrath and Olympic gold medallist Ryk Neethling. Dealing with an addict is never easy, but they kept the faith.

There are many other Manyongas kicking around the dusty streets of this country. His story needs to be a lesson on how we need to do more to find them, nurture them and help to propel them to greatness too.

today in print