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Manyonga part of Olympic re-run in Shanghai

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Missed last year’s long jump final at the Olympic Games in Rio? Don’t worry, the competition at Friday’s IAAF Diamond League in Shanghai is going to be a virtual repeat.

The top six placed athletes are all competing, making it look like a Rio re-run and an opportunity for athletes to settle old scores.

Neil Cornelius, who coaches Rio Olympics silver medallist Luvo Manyonga (Tuks Athletics), arguably the hottest prospect in international long jumping at the moment, sees it as a good dress rehearsal for the World Championships in London.

‘I think in Shanghai the athletes might just be vying to get a psychological upper hand. One good jump for any athlete could get the others worrying.’

According to Cornelius, it’s not often that you get a competition in which seven athletes can boast a personal best of 8.40 metres and better. And three of them are South Africans: Manyonga, Khotso Mokoena (8.50m) and Ruswahl Samaai (8.49m)

Manyonga is the trendsetter, having jumped 8.62 metres and 8.65 metres in competition. He’s the first athlete to jump further than 8.60m since 2009. His agent, Lee-Roy Newton, said he can’t remember when last any athlete has managed two attempts past 8.60 so early in a season.

If everything goes according to plan, Cornelius hopes that the South Africans can send out a clear message to the Americans – that their domination of international long jumping is about to come to an end.

The current statistics favour Cornelius’s confidence, as the top five jumps this season on the IAAF-list are all credited to South Africans. Samaai’s attempt of 8.49m is the third best of the season. Manyonga’s 8.46m is the fourth best and Samaai’s 8.35m slots in at fifth.

Manyonga makes no secret about the fact that he has his sights on Mike Powell’s long-standing world record of 8.95m, set in 1991. The Tuks athlete is clever enough not to make bold predictions, preferring his legs to do the talking.

According to Manyonga, he knows he is capable of a few more really big jumps this season, but after last year’s fiasco at the national championships in Stellenbosch where he overstepped five times, he realises the importance of making his first jump count.

‘That was definitely a turning point in my career. Ever since, my coach keeps reminding me that with a good first jump you buy five more.’

Considered to be the favourite in Shanghai does not faze Manyonga. Newton said he actually thrives under pressure. ‘Luvo is a natural entertainer. He wants to get his fans to get excited about his performance. The more they get involved during the competition the better he is going to perform. Watch this space Friday, there might just be another really big jump.’

Manyonga’s own opinion about pressure is that the long jump pit is his office. ‘In my office I never feel any pressure, but it is when I step outside that I sometimes get nervous.’

The top six in last year’s Olympic Games final who will be competing on Friday are 1 Jeff Henderson (USA), 2 Manyonga, 3 Greg Rutherford (Britain), 4 Jarrion Lawson (USA), 5 Jianan Wang (China), 6 Emiliano Lasa (Uruguay)

The only other South African action in Shanghai is three-time Olympian LJ van Zyl. The Pretoria athlete took third at last weekend’s Diamond League opener in Doha.

Picture of Manyonga courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA


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