Ruswahl Samaai

Athlete Profile

    South Africa South Africa
    25 SEP 1991

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
Long Jump 8.49 -0.8 Potchefstroom (Puk McCarthur) 22 APR 2017

Personal Best - Indoor

Performance Wind Place Date
Long Jump 8.18 Portland (Oregon Convention Center), OR 20 MAR 2016

Progression - Outdoor

Long Jump

Performance Wind Place Date
2017 8.49 -0.8 Potchefstroom (Puk McCarthur) 22 APR
2016 8.38 +0.8 Rabat (Prince Moulay Abdellah) 22 MAY
2015 8.38 +1.4 Stellenbosch 17 APR
2014 8.13 -1.2 Germiston 15 MAR
2013 7.96 Germiston 09 MAR
2012 7.94 +0.8 Germiston 31 MAR

Progression - Indoor

Long Jump

Performance Wind Place Date
2016 8.18 Portland (Oregon Convention Center), OR 20 MAR

Honours - Long Jump

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Championships London 2017 3 8.32 -0.1 London (Olympic Stadium) 05 AUG 2017
The XXXI Olympic Games 9 7.97 -0.4 Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico) 13 AUG 2016
IAAF World Indoor Championships 5 8.18 Portland (Oregon Convention Center), OR 20 MAR 2016
15th IAAF World Championships 12q2 7.79 +0.7 Beijing (National Stadium) 24 AUG 2015

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 26 July 2016


Ruswahl SAMAAI, South Africa (Long Jump/Triple Jump)


Born 25 September 1991 in Paarl, South Africa

1.78m, 73kg

Coach: Jenny Kingwell (RSA)


Ruswahl Samaai was looking for a way out from the dangerous streets of Paarl’s Amstelhof, but instead he went a step further leaping into the top ranks of international track and field. If his circumstances were any kind of millstone around his neck, Samaai found a way to shake it off thanks to his single-mindedness to achieve. Infamous for its drugs and gangsters, Amstelhof did not provide the ideal setting, as Samaai was growing up in a shack that provided basic shelter from the wind and the weather but was hardly water proof during the rainy days.


“There were good times and there were bad times, food was sometimes scarce, and we would often eat the same meal three times a day because there is nothing else,” Samaai recalls.

“In a sense it is that hardship that motivated me to get out of my conditions, and my mother always said there was a plan with my life and I just needed to persevere. I want to show other up and comings that there is an escape, and tell them that they should not be dictated to by their circumstances and stand in the way what of they want to achieve.”


Samaai was raised by single mother Minnie, who provided the moral compass, and put food on the table for Ruswahl and his three siblings. He inherited his speed from Minnie, a hurdler at school, and describes her as his role model and inspiration.

“My mother has been our rock, she raised four children by herself, nobody supported her, when she asked for help it was never forthcoming,” he said.

“Through thick and thin, my mother is my role model for everything she has done for me until this day.”


His natural athletic ability provided an escape from a young age, first earning him a scholarship at the prestigious Paarl Gimmasium High School at the Boland provincial championships in primary school.

“My school, Paarl Gimnasium played a major role in my career, it is a combination of school, my mother, and my coach that I am standing here as the person I am,” Samaai said.


The talented athlete started out as a triple jumper before a knee operation forced him to compete in the long jump in 2010.

Samaai continued to make sacrifices, walking 10km one-way every day through the most dangerous part of Amstelhof to train at the Dal Josafat Stadium.

Before dedicating his life to athletics, Samaai also enjoyed playing rugby union, earning selection for the school’s prestigious first team.

“I live for competition, I also played rugby and I think it has made a major impact on how I approach things,” Samaai said.

“I played fullback in school, in 2009, when I was in Grade 11, I was in the first team group. I needed to make a choice, but I loved athletics too much. I decided to leave rugby and focus on what is important.”


Despite the risk of injury, Samaai played a few matches for Violets rugby club after winning his bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“But I decided not to put a foot on a rugby field again because now I know what I am capable of, and what I can achieve in athletics,” Samaai said.

“There is a lot of hatred from where I come from and people don’t want to see you succeed, and sometimes you will find they target you.”


His dedication would soon pay off, leading him to Johannesburg after placing third at the South African Athletics Championships in Durban in his first year as a senior in 2011.

A wind assisted leap of 7.80m earned him a bronze medal, and a bursary at the University of Johannesburg where he met up with coach Jenny Kingwell.

“I just focussed on athletics, then I got the bursary at the University of Johannesburg, but I didn’t have a coach; then one of the athletes said I should come and train with them and that is when I ended up with Jenny,” said the transport and management student.

“I think we were made for each other, and it was destiny that she coached me, at the end of the day we bring out the best in each other. She brings out the best performances in me, and as an athlete I also show her what I can do and we’ve been together since 2012.”


He made steady improvements in the years to follow but only made a proper breakthrough in 2014.


Samaai first leapt over eight metres that year, opening his season with an 8.10m jump in Johannesburg, improving his personal best by 14 centimetres.

This was only the beginning of great things to come in 2014, as he would win his first medal at his maiden major championships, clinching bronze at the Commonwealth Games with a best leap of 8.08m.

He followed that up with another bronze two weeks later at the African Championships, completing a South African sweep of the podium behind Zarck Visser and Khotso Mokoena.


In early 2015, Samaai produced a massive life-time best jump of 8.38m to win his first national title at the South African Championships in Stellenbosch.

The leap moved him into the second place on the South African All Time list, behind national record holder Khotso Mokoena.

“Khotso Mokoena opened the door for us, he showed that South African long jumpers can achieve things internationally, that we can win medals at the Olympics and at World Championships,” Samaai said.

“Jumping against guys like Khotso has been an inspiration, it has been driving me to also be the best.”


A hamstring injury kept Samaai out of competition for two months and he subsequently battled to return to form in the build-up to the IAAF World Championships in Beijing later in the year.

There Samaai failed to advance past the qualifying rounds, without recording a single jump close to eight metres

He signalled his return to form at the beginning of 2016, setting a national indoor record of 8.18m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland in March, before defending his South African title with a best leap of 8.34m.


Proving to be a model of consistency, Samaai has jumped above eight metres on 16 occasions in 2015, including a wind-assisted 8.40m at the African Athletics Championships in Durban.

After placing second in Shanghai, he won his first Diamond League title at the Rabat meeting in May, where he pasted a career-equalling attempt of 8.38m.

“I consistently push my body to jump 8.20m, and I know for a fact that if I can consistently do that, the big distances will come,” Samaai said.


Personal Bests

Long jump- 8.38 (2015)

Triple jump- 16.10A (2014)  


Long jump- 8.18 NR (2016)


Yearly Progression

Long Jump: 2010- 7.07; 2011- 7.75; 2012- 7.94A, 2013- 7.96A; 2014- 8.13A; 2015- 8.38; 2016- 8.38

Triple Jump: 2012- 15.79A; 2014-16.10A, 2016- 15.97A


Long Jump: 2016- 8.18


Career Highlights

2010    5th        South African Junior Championships (Germinston)              (Long Jump)     7.07A

2011    3rd        South African Championships (Durban)                                (Long Jump)     7.80w

2012    1st        South African U23 Championships (Germinston)                  (Long Jump)     7.94A

2012    3rd        South African Championships (Port Elizabeth)                      (Long Jump)     7.61w

2013    1st        South African U23 Championships (Pretoria)                        (Long Jump)     7.78A

2013    4th        South African Championships (Stellenbosch)                        (Long Jump)     7.74

2014    2nd       South African Championships (Pretoria)                                (Long Jump)     7.98A

2014    3rd        Commonwealth Games (Glasgow)                                        (Long Jump)     8.08

2014    3rd        African Championships (Marrakech)                                     (Long Jump)     7.84w

2015    1st        South African Championships (Stellenbosch)                        (Long Jump)     8.38

2015    q          World Championships (Beijing)                                              (Long Jump)     7.79

2016    5th        World Indoor Championships (Portland)                                (Long Jump)     8.18

2014    1st        South African Championships (Stellenbosch)                        (Long Jump)     8.34

2016    1st        African Championships (Durban)                                           (Long Jump)     8.40w


Prepared by Ockert de Villiers for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2016