By Mark Etheridge
Olympic silver medallist Luvo Manyonga swept all before him to win Diamond League long jump gold in windswept Stockholm, Sweden, on Sunday.
Manyonga mastered the conditions optimally in the Olympic stadium and won with a best of 8.36 metres on the night, this with an illegal tailwind of 3.3m/sec.
He was followed home by fellow South African Ruswahl Samaai in 8.29m, while another former Olympic silver medallist, Khotso Mokoena, was sixth, just 2cm shy of the 8m mark.
The wind swirled around the stadium, making conditions extremely unpredictable, with Manyonga’s leaps varying from a 3.3/sec tailwind to a 3.7m/sec headwind.
His best leap was his opening effort, and he followed up with jumps of 8.28, 2.58 when he ran through the pit, 8.33, 8.20, and rounded off with an 8.28m.
That last jump saw him landing slightly awkwardly and receiving some medical attention on the in-field. The South African sports fraternity will be holding their collective breath that it’s nothing serious.
Other South Africans in action, were the in-form Antonio Alkana, three-time Olympian LJ van Zyl, Rynardt van Rensburg and Pieter Conradie.
And they produced a mixed bag of results, with only the third-mentioned able to go to bed with a truly satisfied smile.
Alkana lined up for the 110m hurdles on the back of his recent season’s best and national record of 13.11sec in Czech Republic.
But first, Britain’s Andrew Pozzi was disqualified for a false start, then it was the South African’s turn to react too quickly, and Spain’s Orlando Ortega was left to race to victory in 13.09, just 0.01sec ahead of Sergey Shubenkov.
Cape Town’s Alkana was left to rue his chances, but admirably took full responsibility for the false start. ‘It was just an undisciplined start,’ he explained.
Asked whether Pozzi’s earlier disqualification had perhaps put him off, he refused to allow it to have any bearing on his own race. ‘Not at all, I was still focused on what I was supposed to do.’
He’ll have 10 days or so to regroup now, with his next meeting being the World Challenge meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic on 28 June.
Czech Republic means good memories for Alkana after his season’s best and he’ll be hoping to build on that great effort.
One frustrated man was Van Zyl in the 400m hurdles. After missing his first scheduled race in Finland with sinus problems, he ran 49.89sec in the Oslo Diamond League on Thursday.
He had high hopes for Sunday’s meeting and with a lane-two draw was well-placed, as a strong finish saw him making ground on find of the season Karsten Warholm (Norway), who won in 48.82.
But disaster struck at the last hurdle and he trailed in last with a time of 51.42sec.
‘I was very excited to do well,’ said Van Zyl. ‘I had a nice race, but then messed it up at the 10th hurdle, I hit it hard with my foot.
‘Until then I ran well… my splits were good and I was on for a 48sec finish. So I must take the positives from this. On the one hand it was much better than in Oslo, but I must concentrate…I’ve been doing this for a long time and mustn’t mess up. So I’m disappointed, but I have more races in July to concentrate on.’
Van Rensburg was all smiles though, the national 800m champion taking third in the non-Diamond League ‘national’ 800m event.
Dutchman Thijmen Kupers won in 1:45.02, 0.40sec ahead of Ireland’s Mark English, and Bloemfontein’s Van Rensburg was third in 1:45.73, a season’s best.
He’d gone into the race hungry for his first 1:45 of the season and hit pay dirt. The first thing he did was to dedicate his IAAF qualifier for August’s World Championships to coach and dad, Derek.
‘Improving, Father’s Day gift to my coach. Still being patient for better.’
Going on to describe his race, the Rio Olympian said: ‘I’m very happy. I knew I was in shape to go 1:45 and we were targeting Stockholm from the beginning. Now we start building for the 1:44.’
Luckily the 800m athletes weren’t too adversely affected by the wind. ‘We ran earlier so it was a bit better. I sat in fifth place with the pacer going 50.8 and about 1:17 for halfway and 600m. I stuck to the pack ,coming in fourth with 100m to go.
‘I passed Adam Kszczcot of Poland in the last 50m and I finished strongly with a good last 100m.
‘A time of 1:44 is on the cards, just a matter of right time, right race and right moment.’
There’s not much time for recovery though. He ran an 800m in Oslo on Thursday, then on Sunday, and his next race is on Tuesday!
‘That’s in Copenhagen, which will be a bit tough after this one, but I’m still looking for a good one. I’d really like another faster time on 11 July in Lucerne.’
The final SA athlete in action was national 400m champion Pieter Conradie, and he’s still looking for his best form in Europe. He clocked 47.22 for eighth spot in a race won by Bahama’s Steven Gardiner in 44.58.
Picture of Manyonga in Stockholm action courtesy of Jessica Gow/AFP/Getty Images