Next aim is gold medal in Tokyo
South African Olympic long-jump silver medallist Luvo Manyonga is planning to make up for lost time and reward himself with gold at the Toyko 2020 Olympic Games.
The 25-year-old says the time he spent out of competition after he was banned for the use of tik not only helped him properly evaluate his life as an athlete, but also saved him from certain death.
Manyonga missed the 2012 Olympic Games in London and he says the two-year ban spent in the wilderness was the turning point.
“Everything happens for a reason‚” he said.
“That was a wake-up call – to be suspended.
“If I went to London‚ I would probably be dead by now. The money I would have received there‚ I would probably have smoked it on expensive drugs and be dead now.
“I’m alive‚ I’m healthy and I’m grateful about that.”
After the second lease on life‚ which saw the Mbekweni-born jumper return to the professional track early this year after beginning training in the middle of last year, he is now confident of claiming gold at the next Olympics.
Manyonga‚ who jumped 8.37m for the Olympic silver in Rio de Janeiro‚ is also planning a bid for the world record (8.95m by Mike Powell in 1991).
“I told people here in South Africa even before I went there [to Rio] that I believed in myself. I still believe in myself. I know I am the best long-jumper in the world‚” he said.
“The next target is a world record.
“I still have about three Olympic Games in me. I just need to keep focused.”
He is aware there are distractions that could sidetrack him from his goals‚ but he is set on not losing focus again.
“I know there will be a lot of distractions in my life‚” he said.
“There will suddenly be people who want to be my friends‚ but I’m going to keep the same company that has brought me to where I find myself now.”
Manyonga does not allow negative talk to overshadow his achievement and instead hopes his story will motivate others.
The silver medallist has returned home to Mbekweni‚ in Paarl‚ where he will be a guest speaker.
He will hope to convince users to turn their backs on drugs.
“That [drug addiction being brought up] does not bother me any more,” he said.
“I’m going to be passing a message to my community‚ including the guys I was using with‚ to tell them they can make it in life if they believe in themselves.”