by Donald McRae December 2016
Three years ago Luvo Manyonga was a crystal meth addict. Now he is an Olympic silver medallist. This is his journey from the tik-addled townships to Rio glory, with the help of an Irish former street-sweeper turned strongman. Luvo Manyonga has already created my favourite story of the year but, on a gentle summer afternoon in Pretoria, the South African long jumper is just getting started. At the Rio Olympics in August, Manyonga conjured up a dizzying leap when he transformed the desperate grind of poverty and drug addiction into a beautifully shiny silver medal and soothing redemption. It proved he had overcome the bleak hold that crystal meth once exerted over his township life.
“…I worked with him in the gym and wherever I went, Luvo went. It was a slow process – with lots of relapses...”Manyonga kept sliding back into the dark clutches of addiction and McGrath, three years later, sighs. “You had to have the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job to work with Luvo then. You never knew from one day to the next where he would be. But you had to make peace with that and believe things would get better.”