By Mark Etheridge
As track sprint legend Usain Bolt bowed out of the global athletics scene with bronze in the 100-metre final, South Africa bagged long jump gold and bronze through Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai at the World Championships in London on Saturday.
Manyonga grabbed gold with a best of 8.48m with his second jump, while Samaai’s 8.32 got bronze for South Africa with his final attempt.
It was the first two medals for South Africa on day two of competition.
Manyonga has now gone one better after getting silver at the Rio Olympics in Brazil last year, and completed a remarkable turn-around after being down and out and all but written off with a drug problem a few years back, which saw him serving an 18-month suspension.
The former world junior champion opened his account with a huge jump on Saturday night, but was red-flagged for being 5cm over the board.
He also closed his campaign with a huge leap, but with another red flag when the gold medal was already his.
‘I feel awesome! It’s a great feeling to be a world champion,’ Manyonga said. ‘This is not the end. We’re still going to show the world what South Africa is made of.’
Manyonga’s winning distance was 11cm further than the leap which won him silver in Rio a year ago.
Samaai was also predicting exciting times ahead. ‘This is the beginning of something great. Let’s just hope this can carry us forward.’
South African track fans had high hopes of another medal in the 100m final, where they were represented by Akani Simbine.
But he could only end fifth in 10.01 as American Justin Gatlin (another top athlete who has his own drug problems) turned the tables on Bolt’s farewell party with victory in a season’s best 9.92 seconds.
‘I’m very happy to have made it to the final, and I’m happy with the race,’ was Simbine’s initial take on his race.
Compatriot and new kid on the block Christian Coleman took silver in 9.94 and Bolt rounded off the podium with bronze in 9.95 on a cool evening, not ideal for super-quick times.
Gatlin, his career shrouded by a drug-ridden cloud and having served two bans, finally got his place in the sun at the ripe old age of 35 after five silver medals behind Bolt.
Gatlin was also the last man to beat Bolt before Saturday night, having done so at the Diamond League meeting in Rome four years ago.
Earlier, Caster Semenya booked her place in the women’s 1500m final with third spot in the semi-final, and a time of 4min 03.80sec behind Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon and Britain’s Laura Muir.
South Africa’s two medals put them third on the medals table after two days of competition behind the United States and Ethiopia.
Picture of Manyonga in action during Saturday’s final courtesy of Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images