Luvo Manyonga (Tuks) will start his international long-jump campaign in Rome on 2 June 2016. He took a short break from competition after the South African Championships in Stellenbosch because of an injury to his right ankle.
Neil Cornelius, his coach at Tuks, explained: 'It was nothing serious but seeing that it is an Olympic year we did not want to risk aggravating the injury. So we opted for Luvo to rather go for rehabilitation at the High Performance Centre (hpc).
'He started training on Monday and I can honestly say that I am excited. Luvo is definitely focussed and in the right mind-set. He appears to have completely recovered from his ankle injury.'
Surprisingly, Manyonga's only legal jump at the South African Championships in Stellenbosch was 6,7 m, which meant that he did not qualify for the final three jumps of the competition. Two of his attempts were no-jumps. There were people who thought he was overly confident when he went for his third jump.
Cornelius said: 'This was certainly not the case. What the spectators did not realise was that Luvo sustained his injury during his second attempt. As his coach, I knew he was going to struggle with his third jump. If he had jumped further and remained in the competition, there was a good chance that he would have withdrawn because of the Olympics. The Games in Rio are all that matters to Luvo at the moment. From now on, we shall do everything in our power to ensure that he qualifies for the final.'
Cornelius said they are still waiting for the final confirmation, but there is a good chance that Manyonga will also compete at the Diamond League Meeting in Birmingham on 5 June 2016.
Earlier this season Manyonga proved that he has a chance of qualifying for the Olympic final. In his first competition, which was a league meeting at Pilditch, he jumped 8,2 m, and at the Gauteng North Championships he went even further, jumping 8,3 m. This performance by the former junior world long jump champion, who trains at TuksSport hpc, is even more remarkable in view of the fact that the league meeting at Pilditch was the first time in more than a year that he competed officially. He qualified for the Games with his very first jump.
After his 8,3 m jump, he said: 'I won't say it was easy, but it felt good. The reason I am able to consistently have good jumps is that I believe in my own ability and I am not obsessed about distance. I just jump because I enjoy doing so. All that matters is to make sure that my technique is faultless when I compete. If I can get that right, the big jumps will happen.'
Judging by what has been happening at the Olympic Games in the long jump since 1996, it seems as if Manyonga has a realistic chance of receiving a medal at the Games in Rio, provided that he stays focussed.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott