SPECIAL STAR: Luvo Manyonga wins the Sportsman of the Year award. Picture: SABC screengrab
When former tik addict, now Olympics silver medallist and long jump sensation Luvo Manyonga was announced Sportsman and Sport Star of the Year, his mother, Joyce Manyonga, a domestic worker, was reminded of the R5 coins she used to give him to travel to Stellenbosch to train.

Being a recipient of the country’s top sports awards and beating the likes of Olympic gold medallists Wayde van Niekerk and Chad le Clos to claim the Sportsman of the Year accolade was a far cry from eight years ago, when the Paarl-born Manyonga was addicted to tik.

The 26-year-old’s remarkable story is not just about growing up in a shack, but how he overcame his addiction to become the country’s top athlete.

Manyonga and track sensation Caster Semenya were the big winners, named Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year in Kempton Park on Sunday evening.

Speaking to the Cape Times from her Mbekweni home in Paarl yesterday, an overjoyed Joyce said: “We are proud of our young man. 

Luvo continues to make us proud. He continues to inspire us and the rest of the community where he comes from.

“Whenever he wins something I am always reminded of the R5 coins I use to give to him to go train in Stellenbosch. Those are being repaid now. Luvo is naturally a strong and an athletic person. He got that from his father.”

Joyce thanked Mbekweni residents for rallying behind her son and said their support had made Manyonga the person he was today.

“I am very proud to be Luvo’s mother. I had a knee problem during the awards. but when he won I could not stop stamping my feet and jumping up and down. All that pain was gone.

“He is also an inspiration to the youth of this country. Today we were visited by people who came to congratulate him because he has put Mbekweni on the map,” she said.

Luvo’s sister, Vuyiseka Manyongo, said: “We want to say thank you to this community. They have been very supportive towards Luvo. We love the people of Mbekweni.”

A beaming Luvo said he just wants to keep inspiring the youth, after being named South Africa’s Sports Star of the Year.

He has taken one giant leap after another since the start of the season and is yet to come down from the high of winning the world long-jump gold medal.

He has broken the South African record twice this season, boasting a personal best of 8.60 metres.

Manyonga completed a winning streak over a full calendar year over 10 meetings before finishing the year off with the Diamond League Trophy in the long jump.

Last year he claimed a silver medal in long jump at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I’m a bit emotional, it is going away now but the award is mine and I am the Sportsman of the Year,” Manyonga said.

“I just want to keep riding the wave until I retire someday, and I am looking forward to next year.”

The long jumper will target more silverware in 2018, when he will be looking to add the World Indoor and Commonwealth Games titles to his growing list of accolades.

Three-time 800m world champion Semenya also walked away with the People’s Choice Award.

Semenya has been peerless in the 800m over the last two seasons, winning gold at the Rio Olympic Games before claiming her third world title in London this year.

“It is a great feeling winning awards but it is no longer about that, it is about creating great performances for my people,” Semenya said.

“It is about going out there and carrying the flag knowing people are behind you and love you for who you are.”

She added a surprise 1 500m bronze medal to highlight her versatility and star quality.

Semenya revealed she would race the 800m and the 1500m at the Commonwealth Games, with an eye on double gold.

“I just want to be the best 800m athlete ever, so I have to maintain my winning streak,” Semenya said.

“I’m now on 20 out of 20 since 2015, which is a great achievement, so I just want to keep on winning.”

The Blitzboks were crowned Sports Team of the Year thanks to their World Rugby Sevens Series victory earlier this year.

“It is a massive privilege to accept this award on behalf of our team.

“Over the last three or four years we’ve been working really hard,” said Blitzboks captain Philip Snyman.