Van Niek­erk look­ing to go low


IT TAKES a vil­lage to raise a cham­pion. When Luvo Many­onga lines up for his run-up the world waits with bated breath for the South African long-jump phe­nom to un­leash an­other earth-shat­ter­ing leap.

In an event where ev­ery lit­tle de­tail can trans­fer into valu­able ti­tle-win­ning cen­time­tres, it is not sur­pris­ing that May­onga may be flying solo when his foot con­nects the board but it is the work of a co­or­di­nated team be­hind the scenes that has sup­plied the boost­ers to the nat­u­rally tal­ented ma­chine.

There has been this mis­nomer that the in­sanely tal­ented Many­onga can merely pitch up to pro­duce the magic from the last year or so.

Since wip­ing the slate clean and re­build­ing his fledgeling ca­reer, Many­onga has had a team of ex­perts look­ing at ev­ery de­tail to get him from zero to one of the most ex­cit­ing prospects in world ath­let­ics.

Like a team of me­chan­ics fine tun­ing a high-pow­ered en­gine, the South African long-jump king has his own spe­cial unit con­sist­ing of the coach Neil Cor­nelius, strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Wayne Cold­man, and phys­io­ther­a­pist Karabo Morokane.

Since win­ning the 2016 Rio Olympic sil­ver medal Many­onga has emerged as one of the big­gest threats to Mike Pow­ell’s dust-cov­ered world record of 8.95m.

Many­onga has ex­tended the South African record twice this sea­son, also leap­ing over 8.60 me­tres at four con­sec­u­tive meet­ings.

Con­quer­ing the world one leap at a time, Many­onga em­u­lated Amer­i­can long jump and sprint­ing leg­end Carl Lewis’ per­for­mances from 1987 with his four jumps over 8.60m.

Many­onga will be go­ing into the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships next month as the re­sound­ing favourite in the long jump hold­ing a world lead of 8.65m, which is 16 cen­time­tres fur­ther than his near­est ri­val, com­pa­triot Ruswahl Sa­maai.

But what we see is the cul­mi­na­tion of hard work since he started re­build­ing his life with a ded­i­cated team do­ing everything in their power have Many­onga fir­ing on all cylin­ders.

“Al­though he was ac­tive he did not do long-jump spe­cific train­ing and you can see that with how he has im­proved in a year win­ning sil­ver at the Olympics and what he has done this year,” Cor­nelius points out.

“So you can see the foun­da­tion we have built from 2015 to 2016 which is show­ing now. People may think this hap­pened overnight but it is some­thing that has been com­ing since 2015 so it was a long road we had to travel.

“We had to build this guy from the ground up where we had to be pa­tient, in 2015 I was dream­ing about Tokyo 2020.”

The con­sen­sus is Many­onga has year or two but if re­ally want to some­thing spe­cial then we would have to work with him for four or five years,” Cor­nelius said.

“I have a full pro­gramme worked out for him un­til 2020, so this is the ba­sis, this is only the be­gin­ning.

“It is a con­stant ad­just­ment, Luvo has re­ally become faster and stronger since last year and we had to make a lot of ad­just­ments.”

Cold­man, who has played a lead­ing role in get­ting Many­onga in world-class shape, de­scribes the phi­los­o­phy as coach driven, ath­lete cen­tred and sci­ence sup­ported.

“With Luvo we look at it fairly sim­ply; strength, mo­bil­ity, and tech­nique are cru­cial so if we put those three things in place nor­mally in sprint­ing and ex­plo­sive sports things are gonna go re­ally well,” Cold­man AF­TER RAC­ING to a sea­son’s best at his pre­vi­ous race at the be­gin­ning of the month Wayde van Niek­erk dropped a hint that he might pro­duce some­thing spe­cial at tonight’s Monaco Di­a­mond League meet­ing.

Con­sid­er­ing Van Niek­erk posted the third fastest time of his ca­reer when he posted a new 43.62 sec­onds in Lau­sanne, it would not be a com­pletely out­landish thought that he could come close to his world record of 43.03.

“I will have one more com­pe­ti­tion be­fore Lon­don … there I want to put on a show and aim for a great time,” Van Niek­erk said.

On the eve of the Monaco race, Ja­maican sprint­ing leg­end Usain Bolt paid Van Niek­erk the ul­ti­mate com­pli­ment say­ing he re­gret­ted not rac­ing the South African as he draws the cur­tain on his ca­reer.

“I think that’s one of the most dis­ap­point­ing things in my ca­reer now, that he came along at this late stage, that I didn’t get to com­pete against him be­cause I think he’s one of the best, hands down, right now,” Bolt said.

With Bolt opt­ing out of rac­ing the 200m at the global show­piece, Van Niek­erk is seen as one of the strong con­tenders to add the half-lap sprint gold to his 400m ti­tle from two years ago.

Van Niek­erk will be rac­ing the 200400m dou­ble in Lon­don and will be look­ing to fol­low in Michael John­son’s foot­steps to claim both ti­tles at the same cham­pi­onships.

Mean­while, Olympic 800m gold medal­list Caster Se­menya will be look­ing to make a strong state­ment in her fi­nal race ahead of the cham­pi­onships.

Se­menya con­tin­ues to be the dom­i­nant force in the two-lap event top­ping the world rank­ings with the sea­son’s best of 1:56.61 from Doha in May.

The South African will be look­ing to ex­tend her win­ning streak in the 800m race to 18 vic­to­ries.

She will once again cross swords with her fel­low Rio Olympics medal­lists Mar­garet Wambui of Kenya and Bu­rundi’s Francine Niyon­s­aba.

South African 100m record-holder Akani Sim­bine will be lin­ing up against Usain Bolt for a re­peat of the Rio Olympic fi­nal.

Sim­bine will be look­ing to strike a psy­cho­log­i­cal blow against the world record-holder ahead of the world cham­pi­onships.

His coach Werner Prinsloo said Sim­bine would be look­ing to get a con­fi­dence boost with less than a month to go to the global show­piece.

“The last two weeks have been good, train­ing went well and we are us­ing Monaco as a good build-up to the World Cham­pi­onships and it doesn’t mat­ter who is in the line-up,” Prinsloo said.

South African women’s 400m hur­dles ace Wenda Nel will line up in her spe­cial­ist event while Do­minique Scot­tE­furd will be at the start of the 3 000m.

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