Luvo Manyonga during the ASA Speed Series 2 held at Mangaung Athletics Stadium in Bloemfontein Photo: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Since making his return from a four-year hiatus due to a doping ban and other personal problems, Luvo Manyonga has established himself as one of the most exciting long jump prospects in recent years.

While most of the excitement ahead of this weekend’s South African Senior Championships in Potchefstroom has been directed at the sprint events, the long jump could produce the fireworks.

Manyonga, pictured, has been the pace-setter in the early stages of the 2017 season, boasting a world leading jump of 8.62 metres.

The Olympic silver medallist is the only athlete so far this year to have leapt further than 8.20m from his two meetings from last month.

Six of his 12 attempts from Bloemfontein and Pretoria have been further than 8.30m, highlighting his early season form.

After setting a new national and continental record at the Gauteng North Championships in Pretoria last month, Manyonga said he had the world mark firmly in his sights.

“I want to be first first person to jump over nine metres, if you can see what I am now, it shows there is something in my legs,” Manyonga said.

Improving Khotso Mokoena’s previous record, Manyonga launched himself to joint 12th place on the world all-time list, tied with Jamaica’s James Beckford - edging him closer to Mike Powell of America’s world mark of 8.95m from 1991.

Before Manyonga made his return, Zarck Visser and Ruswahl Samaai looked set to take the mantle from former national record-holder Khotso Mokoena.

Visser’s plan to reach his maiden Olympic Games never quite launched, as he battled with form after a 10-month absence due to a stress fracture.

The 26-year-old looked like the heir apparent to Mokoena’s throne with his lifetime best of 8.41m in 2015.

Samaai had an impressive buildup to the Rio Games, demonstrating consistency before a drop in form shortly before and during the global showpiece.

He bowed out of the Games in ninth place after qualifying to the final with a best attempt 8.03m.

The African champion goes into the championships with a season’s best of 8.00m.

Last year six long jumpers reached the Olympic qualifying mark of 8.16m, including Dylan Cotter, who will be in Potchefstoom among the contenders, with a 7.72m season’s best.

Mokoena, who has a new-found passion for the long jump, has joined up with four-time world champion and 2000 Olympic gold medallist Ivan Pedroso of Cuba.

Turning his attention back to the long jump after a focusing on the triple jump for the Olympics, Mokoena has shown some good form on the indoor circuit, leaping to a season’s best of 8.05m.

Should Mokoena make an appearance in Potchefstroom, he would be hoping to at least get close to his previous record.

The Star