The South African enjoyed a year of long jump perfection in 2017 boasting a 100 per cent record on his way to winning the world title in London and the IAAF Diamond League crown. Here the 2016 Olympic silver medallist talks about his passion and enthusiasm for his event.
“I loved the long jump from my very first competition. I was a 100m and 200m sprinter at school when I decided to enter the long jump for the first time. I instantly loved that feeling of flying through the air and landing on a soft surface. I also loved the fan support, the slow handclap - a whole combination of factors.
“That day I won the competition with 7.25m and Mario Smith (who later became Manyonga’s coach) came up to me afterwards and asked, “Who coaches me and how long I’d been doing the long jump?” When I said it was first competition he was amazed and that was the first moment I knew I had an exciting future in long jump.
“Even before that first long jump competition at the age of 18, I knew I could jump. As a child, I played a game called Three Sticks in which you placed sticks on the ground and tried to jump into the spaces between the sticks without touching them or jumped in the same space twice. I guess it was similar to triple jump. No-one could beat me at that game.
“My passion for long jump grew over time. I always like to share and embrace my love of the long jump. If I’m in my township, I just want to jump. It is an amazing feeling.
“When I jump, it makes me feel like a super hero. If I jump 8.30m in the first-round leap I feel transformed. I don’t want to stop jumping until I have jumped out of the pit. I am never satisfied with the distance when I jump. I always want to jump further and expect more. I never put on limit in how far I can jump.
“If I can’t jump for any period of time I feel locked out. A little like when your parents tell you that you are not allowed any sweets! You want them but you can’t do anything about it. It is tough.
“The long jump has given me so much in my life. It makes me smile even when life is difficult. No matter what difficulties and challenges I have faced in my life, long jump has kept me going.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF