Tuks long jumper, Jovan van Vuuren, has good reason for wanting to go past the eight-metre barrier next month and it not’s only to do with Olympic qualification.
It is vital to prove to himself that he is not a ‘one-hit wonder’ however, it is also quite a personal quest. A good friend and former training partner, Hendrik Maartens, committed suicide two years ago. Ever since he has been going for that one big jump as a tribute to a friend lost.
Last year’s USSA Championships in Stellenbosch was the first time he got close to feeling that he is on track. Van Vuuren won, jumping 8.10m. It ranks him as one of South Africa’s ten all-time best long jumpers.
According to Van Vuuren, on the day it felt as if Maartens was with him rooting for him to go big.
“Hendrik and I have been friends from when we were seven. We shared a passion for athletics. I still consider him to be one of South Africa’s best sprinters. In 2017 he clocked a time of 20.40 in the 200m. I used to joke with him saying that he is Africa’s fastest white sprinter. What I most admired about Hendrik is his passion and dedication. Whenever he stepped onto the track, he gave a 100%.”
The Tuks athlete has no doubt that he has got an eight metre plus jump waiting to happen. If he could have his way, he would love to do so during next month’s Varsity Athletics meeting [scheduled for Friday, 20 March at TuksStadium].
“My coach, Neil Cornelius, always emphasises the secret to a big jump is to be focussed on controlling the controllable. When you line up, it is only got to be you, the two lines and the plank – nothing else should matter.
“I must admit there is a thrill to long-jumping. The moment you take off the adrenaline kicks in. For that few milliseconds, it feels like you flying. I don’t think people realise how far eight metres are. Roughly it means jumping more than two storeys only horizontally.
“Getting to hit the sand is not always a thrill. It can be quite hard. There were times it feels like your breath gets knocked out of you, but the ‘fun’ never ceases. I would guess in a way you can say we as athletes get addicted to what we do.”
The Tuks athlete is realistic as to what it is going to take to qualify for the Olympic Games, scheduled for Tokyo from 24 July-9 August.
“It is going to be tough. Theoretically, it means I have to beat three of the world’s best long jumpers – Luvo Manyonga, Ruswahl Samaai and Zarck Visser [who all taken part in Varsity Athletics meetings previously]. I know I can do it. I only have to believe.”
Van Vuuren credits his confidence to Cornelius who helped Manyonga to win a World Championship and silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.
“Neil has got a way to calm me and make me believe nothing is impossible.”
By Wilhelm de Swardt (TuksSport Media)