Luvo Manyonga in the long jump at the IAAF World Championships (© Getty Images)
Having taken the silver medal at last year’s Olympic Games, missing out on gold by just one centimetre, South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga should be heading to this year’s World Championships with high hopes of going one better.
However, thanks to an ankle injury sustained while winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm in June, the 26-year-old hasn’t been able to show any recent form. Securing the world title, which at one point looked like a formality, is therefore no longer quite so certain, despite an African record and world-leading leap of 8.65m to his name alongside three other jumps beyond 8.60m in 2017.
It says a lot for the current crop of jumpers from South Africa that two of Manyonga’s closest challengers hail from that same country.
Ruswahl Samaai leads the IAAF Diamond League standings after winning in Rabat in Manyonga’s absence in July. He also jumped 8.49m in finishing second at the South African Championships in April. Zarck Visser, the 2014 African champion, finished third that day and has since recorded an 8.22m leap.
Bermuda’s Tyrone Smith lies third on this year’s world list with an 8.34m jump, but that was back in May and the 32-year-old has been beyond eight metres on just one occasion since, meaning that it is likely to fall to the trio of jumpers from each of the USA and China to prevent a South African victory.
Jeff Henderson, the man who beat Manyonga to the Olympic title last year, has had a quiet season so far, but following an 8.28m jump at the US Championships in June, he took victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London to complete his preparations in satisfactory fashion.
Jarrion Lawson, who was fourth in Rio, is, perhaps, the best placed US jumper to challenge, winning the US title with a windy 8.49m and finishing second behind Samaai in Rabat with 8.33m, while world indoor champion Marquis Dendy has a successful championship experience on which to draw.
For China, Huang Changzhou, Wang Jianan and Shi Yuhao all have season’s bests within five centimetres of each other, the best of which is Shi’s 8.31m. Yet it is Huang, with a bronze medal from last year’s World Indoors, and Wang, who finished fifth in Rio and who secured bronze in Beijing two years ago, who have the championship pedigree.
The wildcard in London could, perhaps, be 18-year-old Maykel Masso, the Cuban world U20 champion, who has had an inconsistent season, but who has rounded into form at the right time, winning in Madrid with 8.33m only a few weeks ago. Likewise, Aleksandr Menkov, competing as a neutral athlete, took the title in 2013 and lies sixth in the current world list.
Eusebio Caceres, Miltiadis Tentoglou, Michel Torneus, Radek Juska and Damar Forbes have all jumped 8.29m or better this year and could also feature strongly.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF