LONDON - Luvo Mayonga has the world long jump gold medal safely tucked away in his suitcase and will now continue his pursuit of one of the last remaining dust-covered world records.
“It means a lot to my country, this is not the end, we are going to show the world what South Africa is made of,” Manyonga said.
“At the beginning of the year I told myself: ‘Luvo, you are going to take everything this year’, and that is what is happening now.
“I am pushing myself to get the world record, I don’t know the exact date but it is going to come some time soon.”
Seven years ago Manyonga came home to a hero’s welcome, which included a parade through Mbekweni, after winning the 2010 World Junior title.
Manyonga has come full circle as he makes incremental improvements in his pursuit of the world record of 8.95m held by American Mike Powell.
Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai claimed the country’s first double medal haul in the same final at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
They walked away with gold and bronze after Mayonga won his maiden world title with Samaai finishing in third place.
The double medal-haul added to the silver medal former South African record-holder Khotso Mokoena won in 2009 establishing the country as one of the modern day long-jump world powers.
Inducing a red flag on his first attempt Manyonga was under pressure from the get go but launched a superb 8.48-metre leap in the second round.
Threatening to spoil Manyonga’s party throughout the competition was American Jarrion Lawson who leapt to a 8.43m on his second attempt and got within four centimetres on his final jump.
Manyonga admitted his nerves were shot as he had flashbacks of the Rio Olympic Games where he held the lead until the final round when Jeff Henderson of the United States beat him by one centimetre.
“I felt the pressure even before I started the competition because I was leading the whole year and the fans expected me to win gold easily but the guys didn’t give me that chance,” Manyonga said.
“It was very tight competition and on his (Lawson) last jump I almost got a heart attack because I thought it was going to happen again this year.”
After finishing in a disappointing ninth place at the Rio Olympic Games, Samaai produced a resilient performance to earn his place on the podium.
Samaai made a promising start with a creditable jump of 8.25m and as the rounds progressed Samaai moved into fourth place before moving taking third place with an 8.37m on his fifth attempt.
He further cemented the bronze medal with a final jump of 8.32m to finally banish the memory of 2016.
Manyonga said the double medal effort represented the beginning of greater things for South African athletics provided athletes had the backing from the federation.
“Let’s just hope we are going to get the support and the structures to get more athletes here to earn global medals,” Samaai said.
A bitter rivalry that has been going on since they were schoolboys has resulted in a friendship but also one of South Africa’s greatest long jump achievements on the global stage.
“We’ve always been friends throughout all the competitions and we have been friends till this day,” Samaai said.