True mark of a champion

Luvo’s huge leap all the better for coming under pressure

Luvo Manyonga competes in the Men's long jump final during athletics on day seven of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Stadium on April 11, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia
Luvo Manyonga competes in the Men's long jump final during athletics on day seven of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Stadium on April 11, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia
Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Luvo Manyonga delivered when it mattered most in Australia’s Gold Coast last night – under pressure and staring defeat straight in the face.

The men’s long jump title was supposed to be his for the taking‚ but when Australian Henry Frayne soared to 8.33m to take the lead in the second round‚ it looked like the script had been tailor-made for the partisan fans of the Carrara Stadium.

This was a gold mine for the Aussies yesterday‚ winning several events including the women’s javelin and the men’s F38 shot-put‚ where Sunette Viljoen and Reinhardt Hamman took bronze behind two Australians.

Heck‚ even across town at the lawn bowls, SA’s visually impaired pair was beaten by Australians.

World champion Manyonga and world championship bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai were SA’s last hopes to get a gold on the day‚ and there was an Aussie standing in the way.

Frayne scored the first real blow to push Manyonga into second and Samaai third.

But like a felled boxer‚ Manyonga rose with purpose in his heart and struck back in the fourth round‚ leaping to an 8.35m Games record.

That did the damage‚ with the homeboy no-jumping his last two attempts‚ but Manyonga was not done yet. He wanted the knockout. He rocketed to 8.41m on his final take-off to make his point. “I really like that‚” Manyonga said afterwards. “It’s the competition that pushes you to do better.

“When he took the lead‚ I said to myself‚ is this the end? No‚” Manyonga‚ who just needed time to get used to the track, said. He had only one jump in the qualifying round the day before. Samaai did not record a single no-jump‚ and four times he cleared 8m‚ with 8.22m on his second leap bagging the bronze‚ SA’s third on the day and the same colour he took four years ago.

“I’m not happy. I came here with a lot of expectation. I got a bronze in Glasgow and I wanted to upgrade to silver or gold.” But there is no disgrace in consistency either. Frayne‚ who has struggled with injury for much of his career‚ could only praise Manyonga. “He’s a true champion and he responded like one.”
Team SA’s five medals yesterday – one gold‚ one silver and three bronze – lifted the team to fourth on the medals table‚ above New Zealand‚ Canada and Scotland.

But they were dealt a blow after Anaso Jobodwana had seemingly qualified for today’s 200m final‚ but was disqualified for a false start after falling out of his blocks as the gun sounded. The SA team’s attempt to appeal came to naught. That leaves Clarence Munyai as the only SA hope in the 200m‚ although he did not look happy coming off the track after his semifinal‚ declining to talk to journalists on his way through.

Also in action today is Wenda Nel in the women’s 400m hurdles final‚ Hilton Langenhoven and Ndodomzi Ntutu in the T12 100m.

In the bowls‚ the disabled triple take on England for the bronze medal‚ and Petrus Breitenbach and the women’s pair contest the quarterfinals.

Viljoen won the fourth Commonwealth Games medal of her career just weeks after a debilitating back injury that had prevented her from even throwing.

Viljoen‚ the champion at Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010 and runner-up at Glasgow 2014‚ took the javelin bronze behind Australians Kathryn Mitchell and Kelsey-Lee Roberts.

Mitchell effectively sealed the competition on her first attempt as she launched a 68.92 personal best that also stretched the Games record by nearly 3m.

Viljoen’s 62.08m opener was her best effort too‚ and it kept her in second place until the final sixth round when Roberts bumped her down to third place with a throw of 63.89.

But she was beaming‚ and pain-free for once. – TimesLIVE