Having enjoyed a stellar season of international competition, University of Johannesburg student/athlete Ruswahl Samaai said his preparation had been the key to his long jump successes this year.
After leaping to a personal best of 8.49 metres at the national championships, the 26-year-old star claimed bronze at the IAAF World Championships in London and picked up a gold medal and three silvers in the Diamond League series in Europe.
His achievements earned him the Sportsman of the Year award for the second year in a row at the University of Johannesburg Sports Gala this month.
With the worlds in August his top priority, Samaai said he and coach Jenny Kingwill, who is based in Port Elizabeth, had planned a delayed start to his season.
‘We began our season much later than we normally do and I only competed in my first meeting in April,’ he said. ‘In the build-up to that, I focused a lot on strengthening and conditioning to try to make sure I didn’t have any problems with injuries.
‘Being injury-free had the effect of propelling me into a position where I knew it would be a good year.’
The lengthy build-up to the season put Samaai in a positive frame of mind for the worlds and he said he was confident of getting onto the podium.
‘I just felt that the only thing that could keep me from getting a medal at any championship was if I had an injury. But I stayed healthy and was able to put in my best performance on the day.’
Already in training for next year, Samaai said he realised that things would be quite different in 2018 as the season was jam-packed with key international meetings.
The season will start with the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England, in March, followed by Australia’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.
‘This means I will have to start competing much earlier next year and it’s going to be hectic,’ said the UJ transportation management student. ‘I’m looking forward to it, but also know it will be a tough programme with all the competitions which are on.’
He added that the Commonwealth Games were one of the big goals. ‘I got a bronze medal in the 2014 Games and I definitely want to improve that to a silver or gold medal.’
Samaai said they would have to cram in the training compared to this year. ‘But at the moment I’m focused on what has to be done by undergoing my base training. I just want to put in the work now and place myself in a position where I can explode in the big meetings.’
He added that he was delighted to receive the Sportsman of the Year award again. ‘Most definitely – it’s one of the goals for me during the year and it’s an honour to receive it against the world-class sportsmen at UJ.
‘I must compliment them on their achievements, but it’s great for me to get this recognition once again.’
Picture of Samaai and his trophy courtesy of Eon Botha/Swirling Light Photography