From Varsity Athletics to a championship medal! That is the meteoric rise of long jumper Rushwahl Samaai. The reigning African long jump champion added an IAAF World Championship medal to his medal collection this year. The UJ long jumper is on cloud nine.
Saturday night’s bronze medal performance, with a leap of 8.32m at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, is without a doubt the biggest highlight of this young man’s long jump career. After his disappointing showing at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, the critics had written off Samaai. But he bounced back the only way he knows how, by producing a podium finish alongside world champion and his countryman, Luvo Manyonga, who leaped an 8.48m.
An emotional Samaai, who felt like he had taken a huge load off his shoulders, was relieved more than anything with his performance. “This is the stuff that dreams are made off,” said Samaai. “From Varsity Athletics to a championship podium – it cannot get better than this. I’m back and want to go a step further next year at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. I can only go higher from here.”
In 2016 after the Rio Olympics, Samaai was inconsolable as he was injured and was forced to jump in pain and things didn’t work out for him. But he says that he has successfully put the past behind him with this podium leap in 2017.
“I’ve learned to put the past behind me. I’m on to bigger things now. Rio is part of my history I now look to the future. I told myself that if I’m not injured there is always a strong chance of getting a medal and I did it.”
Samaai and Manyonga made history by being the first South Africans to win two medals in the same event.
By Charles Baloyi
Sports writer for the City Press, Daily Sun and Daily Sun