Chris Moleya from Tuks is out to win his first high jump gold medal at the African Athletics Championships currently underway in Asaba, Nigeria, and the season’s statistics are in his favour to be a medal contender.
This comes after the 21-year-old came fourth at the recent IAAF World Cup in London, while at a Madrid competition he finished third jumping 2.26 metres. Only Kenya’s Mathew Sawe had a better height (2.30m).
At the age of 18, Moleya competed at the 2015 All African Games in Brazzaville, Congo where he won bronze, proving he’s not intimidated by international competition.
Moleya was part of a marathon trip by South African athletes en route to Asaba. But, if fully rested, Moleya is confident of jumping 2.30m at the competition.
‘My coach, Hugo Badenhorst, keeps on telling me I’m talented and that I should make the most out of it. I know there’s a big jump waiting to happen. When that will be, I don’t know. I just need to keep on being positive. On a good day, I might even jump 2.35m, but I don’t want to get obsessed about jumping a specific height,’ Moleya said.
Moleya grew up in Zebediela in the Limpopo. Like most of his friends, he was first an avid football player who also participated in athletics.
‘I started high jump when I was 13 years old. Four years later I won my first national title, which changed everything for me. My coach arranged for me to go and study at Prestige College,’ said Moleya who is hoping to study sports science next year.
What excites Badenhorst is that Moleya has never had any serious training, which means his achievements are due to his pure talent and hunger to be the best.
‘I only started coaching Chris in March, and as far I’m concerned he’s as talented as SA’s former world champion, Jacques Freitag, if not more,’ says Badenhorst. ‘What impressed me about Chris is his self-belief. He has set himself specific goals, and is going to achieve them all, although I don’t want him to be under pressure.
‘The plan is that he should only be at his best in 2024,’ commented Badenhorst.
Badenhorst is also coaching 18-year old Yvonne Robson, who won a silver medal at this year’s national championships. The Tuks athlete will also be competing at the African Athletics Championships.
The former modern dancing world champion’s best height is 1.80m this far but Badenhorst predicts she’s capable of doing much better.
‘Her performances during training indicate that she can do 1.90m – it’s just a matter of believing in herself,’ said Badenhorst.
Badenhorst describes Robson as a fighter. ’During a competition in Angola, she needed to jump 1.80m to take the gold medal. Unfortunately, she failed with her first two attempts but then succeeded with her third jump. That to me is a sign of a champion in the making.’
Photo: Moleya in training action, by Reg Caldecott