Manyonga's coach runs 2km to stadium, almost misses final

2016-08-14 08:16
Neil Cornelius (Lloyd Burnard)

Rio de Janeiro - Luvo Manyonga's coach endured an emotional roller-coaster in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night (Sunday morning, SA time) ... and it all began with a broken down Uber. 

Neil Cornelius, who coaches Manyonga, was forced to sprint 2km to make it the Olympic Stadium in time for the long jump final after the car he was in broke down.

He arrived just in time.

"It was a bit of a fight getting here, actually. I had troubles with my Uber ... the woman had a bit of a breakdown," a delighted Cornelius told media after he had watched Manyonga stun the world by winning silver in the men's long jump.

"I had to climb out in a bad part of town, get into another taxi and then had to run the last 2km to get here. I got here just in time to help him (Manyonga) with his run-ups.

"I honestly thought we were not going to make it. I sprinted like 2km ... I'm not that fit, but I made it on time, luckily. I got to my seat. Luckily the other coaches kept a seat for me."

It was all worth it in the end, and Cornelius' reactions to each of Manyonga's jumps were priceless as he fist-pumped his way through the competition with the most animated facial expressions. 

"I have to keep the cool a little bit. I have to try and keep him grounded as well, but sometimes when I saw him today doing his dance I actually couldn't help but dance a bit with him," said Cornelius, who started working with Manyonga at Tuks last year.

"I try to keep grounded but sometimes the whole emotion just sweeps over you."

In 2012 Manyonga was banned for 18 months after traces of methamphetamine (tik) were found in his system. 

But that is not something that Cornelius pays any attention to now.

"I don't tend to focus on his past, I just tend to focus on him as a person and an athlete," he said.

"And him as an athlete has been more exciting than difficult or anything like that.

"There's no limit (to what Manyonga can achieve). I honestly don't want to put a distance on it. If I put a distance on him I'm limiting him. At the moment his potential is limitless."

Lloyd Burnard is Sport24's correspondent in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2016 Olympics ...

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