|Long Jump||8.37||-0.3||Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico)||13 AUG 2016|
|Triple Jump||15.71||+1.0||Germiston||11 APR 2010|
|2016||8.37||-0.3||Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico)||13 AUG|
Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.
Compiled 27 July 2016
Luvo MANYONGA, South Africa (Long Jump/Triple Jump)
Born 8 January 1991 in Mbekweni, South Africa
Coach: Neil Cornelius (RSA)
Unleashing a joyful yell, Luvo Manyonga stepped onto the Pilditch track before doing a back flip celebrating an Olympic qualifying jump, signalling his return to long jump after a four-year absence from elite sport.
Manyonga had good reason to literally jump for joy after serving an 18-month ban for the recreational drug methamphetamine, and the loss of his coach in a car accident.
The 2010 World Junior champion reached the qualifying mark at his first meet back before improving his personal best by four centimetres six days later.
“The first qualifying jump showed me there was more in me and the season would look good if I continue to do as well as I did in training,” Manyonga said.
Manyonga grew up in Mbekweni, a poor community outside Paarl in South Africa’s Western Cape, with a history of drugs and gang-related violence.
His father, John worked as a fork-lift driver and mother, Joyce was a domestic cleaner trying to sustain Manyonga and his two siblings.
The lanky Manyonga showed an interest in sport from an early age, racing the 100m and 200m at primary school, but took up jumping thanks to the encouragement of one of his teachers Monelisi Adonis.
“At first I did high jumping for two months and progressed to as high as 1.95m,” Manyonga said.
“Then I did triple and long jumping until about halfway through 2009. Then I gave up triple jumping because I kept on injuring my hip.”
Manyonga discovered his long and triple jump talents as a 16-year-old, and his successes in the pit brought him fame and relative fortune in the township.
His talents would soon lead him to coach Mario Smith at the University of Stellenbosch where he had taken the athlete under his wing.
The long jump prodigy won his first major medal at the South African Championships in 2009, finishing third with a wind-assisted effort of 7.28m, before adding another bronze at the Africa Junior Championships in Bambous, Mauritius with 7.49m.
At the beginning of 2010, Manyonga leapt beyond eight metres for the first time, a feat he managed four times in the first part of the year before breaking Khotso Mokoena’s South African junior record of 8.09m from 2004 with a jump of 8.19m.
Buoyed by superb performances, Manyonga won long jump gold at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada with a best leap of 7.99m.
“I wasn’t going to settle for the silver medal; I have been battling a bit with my left knee, but I put it right out of my mind to get through to the win,” Manyonga said at the time.
Back home he would receive a hero’s welcome, which included a parade through Mbekweni.
His star would continue to rise the next year, as he leapt to a new personal best of 8.26m, earning a place at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu in 2011, where he would place fifth.
He crowned the 2011 season winning the All Africa Games title in Maputo, Mozambique, with a best leap of 8.02m.
Manyonga first experimented with the highly addictive methamphetamine that same year, but would only realise the error of his way in 2012.
One qualifying jump away from Olympic qualification, Manyonga tested positive for the recreational drug at the national championships series, copping an 18-month ban.
The addiction would send the talented athlete into a downward spiral, while he would also suffer further personal setbacks.
Nine months after he had served his ban, Manyonga suffered another setback following the death of his long-time coach in a car accident in June 2014.
After a few near-death experiences facing gangsters, and feeling the effects of the drugs, Manyonga was given a second chance at life and his career when he was moved to a more conducive environment.
Former South Africa Olympic swimming gold medallist Ryk Neethling took a keen interest in helping the athlete along the way, and Manyonga was eventually placed at the University of Pretoria
“I went through rehab before and learned how to get over that thing and you need to accept that you are powerless and then get away from it,” Manyonga said.
“I decided I can’t be in Cape Town anymore because that is where I hook-up myself with the devil and I decided to come this side. It is much healthier for me to be here.”
Manyonga has since been training under the guidance of Neil Cornelius while he is constantly monitored by the university’s High Performance Centre.
Producing an Olympic qualifying jump at his first meet was an indication of the athlete’s return to form while he has also cultivated the desire to stay on the straight and narrow path.
In his free time Manyonga spends time with his house mates which include South African sprinter Henricho Bruintjies, and 400m hurdler Lindsay Hanekom playing card games, listening to music or spending time on social media.
Each leap is dedicated to his four-year-old son Lindokuhle, while he hopes to finish secondary school sometime in the future.
“I’ve been motivated by seeing my child look up to me, and I need to make sure my child’s future is brighter while I don’t want him to fall in the same traps as I did,” Manyonga said.
“When I take my run-up it feels like I go from being held back to leaping towards freedom.”
“At the Olympics I just want to reach the finals, and from there only God knows what is going to happen.”
At his first national championships since 2012, Manyonga had only one legal jump of 6.70m, missing out on a spot in the final while suffering an ankle injury that would briefly derail his season.
He made a low-key Diamond League return in Rome in June, where he finished seventh with a best effort of 8.03m.
In his final competition before the Rio Olympic Games, Manyonga won silver at the African Athletics Championships in Durban, South Africa with a wind-assisted jump of 8.23m.
“I feel my season is coming together, I had a few ups and downs but everything is looking good now,” Manyonga said.
“You will never know what could happen considering the last Olympics wasn’t won by a massive distance.”
Long jump- 8.30A (2016)
Triple jump- 15.71A (2010)
Long Jump: 2009- 7.65, 2010- 8.19 AJR, 2011- 8.26; 2012- -; 2013- 7.70; 2014- 7.23; 2015- -; 2016-8.30
Triple Jump: 2009-15.55; 2010-15.71A
2009 3rd South African Championships (Stellenbosch) (Long Jump) 7.28w
2009 2nd South African Championships (Stellenbosch) (Triple Jump) 15.55
2009 2nd South African Junior Championships (Pretoria) (Long Jump) 7.04A
2009 2nd South African Junior Championships (Pretoria) (Triple Jump) 15.35A
2009 3rd African Junior Championships (Bambous) (Long Jump) 7.94
2010 5th South African Championships (Durban) (Triple Jump) 15.40
2010 1st South African Junior Championships (Germinston) (Long Jump) 8.05A
2010 2nd South African Junior Championships (Germinston) (Triple Jump) 15.71A
2010 1st World Junior Championships (Moncton) (Long Jump) 7.99
2011 1st South African U23 Championships (Germinston) (Long Jump) 8.07A
2011 2nd South African Championships (Durban) (Long Jump) 7.94w
2011 5th World Championships (Daegu) (Long Jump) 8.21
2011 1st All Africa Games (Maputo) (Long Jump) 8.02
2016 2nd Africa Championships (Durban) (Long Jump) 8.23w
Prepared by Ockert de Villiers for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2016