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“I’ve risen from my demons,” says Manyonga After Overcoming Addiction to Win Silver at Rio

Luvo Manyonga who has battled drug addiction for years secured South Africa’s sixth medal in the long jump at the Rio Olympics. His story of overcoming addiction is the stuff that would make an Oscar-winning Hollywood Movie.

Manyonga’s story started in the obscure township of Mbwekeni, on the outskirts of Paarl South Africa. In Mbwekweni, it doesn’t matter who you are, the talent you have or what you have achieved, the drugs, guns, and violence don’t discriminate.

According to Antoinette Muller’s article on Manyonga, the long jumper was first spotted by his Coach Mario Smith in 2009.  He described his technique as “the most perfect I have ever seen.”

As per the article, he won the junior championship later that year which became both a gift and a curse. The more events Manyonga won, the more money came in and the more his life unraveled. Then, in 2012, he was banned for 18 months from all competitions after traces of methamphetamine were found in his system.

His coach, Smith, would contend for a reduced sentence citing, “mitigating factors, Manyonga’s unfortunate- family situation, lack of education on doping matters and use of the drug for non-enhancing reasons,” all playing part in his drug problems.

Things worsened in 2014 when his coach and father figure Smith died in a car accident. According to Luke Alfred’s profile, Manyonga failed to make it to Smith’s memorial a while later because of a familiar problem – he got high!

As per the Alfred piece, Manyonga would meet Coach John McGrath, an Irishman who was holidaying in South Africa in 2010 and fell in love with the Western Cape. After starting to work with McGrath, the 25-year-old moved South Africa’s high-performance center in Pretoria where his training needs were covered to prepare for the Olympics.

Fast forward to Rio this summer. In a Long Jump drama-filled last round, Mayonga produced an incredible leap of 8.37m (new personal best) taking the lead. However the last attempt, American, Jeff Henderson jumped 8.38m to claim gold just 1cm in front of the South African. The defending champion Greg Rutherford from Britain took bronze.

Talking after the event, an excited Manyonga said, “I’ve risen from my demons.”

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”The demons have been trying to pull me down but look at my face … look at me standing here,”[/perfectpullquote]

he said after the event.

With his past behind him, Manyonga’s journey might be one of South Africa’s best comeback stories.

He takes the tally for South Africa to six medals. Five Silver and One Bronze.


Manyonga Jumping For Silver in The Final.(Photo by Zombio Images)


Manyonga Cerebrates Winning His Silver Medal (photo by Zombio Images)

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