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.