South Africa

Van Vuuren is not going to the Paris Olympic Games to be a tourist

As a rule, the long jumper, Jovan van Vuuren, does not like to make a promise he can’t keep, but after his inclusion in the South African team for the Olympic Games, he stated that he is not going to Paris to take ‘selfies’.

“It has always been my dream to compete at the Games. My journey to Paris has not been an easy one. Two years ago, I was told I would never compete again due to an injury. I, however, refuse to quit on the goal I had set myself,” said the Tuks student. 

With the team announcement last week, there was a moment when reality kicked in for him. He realized that it was all reality and that he was going to realize his Olympic dream

Van Vuuren did not mince his words about his Olympic goal.

“I am going to Paris to medal. It is not going to be easy. The long jump competition will probably boil down to an all-out dogfight. I want to be part of it. It means I must be utterly focussed on after the competition. Only then, I hope to start enjoying Paris and being at the Games,” he commented.

The local star from Pretoria qualified for the Olympics in March, jumping 8.30 metres. It currently ranks as one of the six best international efforts this season. It also means that Van Vuuren is now South Africa’s fifth-best long jumper ever. 

Among South African long jumpers only Luvo Manyonga (8.65m), Khotso Mokoena (8.50m), Raswahl Samaai (8.49m) and Zarck Visser (8.41m) can boast about having jumped further. 

Jovan van Vuuren was a bronze medal winner at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
Photo: Roger Sedres

If Van Vuuren can repeat the performance in Paris, he will have a real chance to win a medal.

In 2012 in London, Greg Rutherford (Britain) won gold with an 8.31 metre effort; 8.12 metres was good enough for bronze. In 2016 in Rio, Jeff Henderson (USA) won, jumping 8.38 metres; 8.29 metres was the bronze medal distance. Miltiadis Tentoglou (Greece) won in 2021 in Tokyo, jumping 8.41 metres. 8.21 metres was good enough for bronze.

Van Vuuren fully realises that the biggest mistake any long jumper can make is to be obsessed about jumping a specific distance. 

“Every time I line up, it will be like the last time I compete. I am not going to take anything for granted. Long jumping is all about being consistent. If you are consistent, there is a platform from which it is possible to go big. To me, perfection is that chase to an ever-elusive goal. The thing is that you can never give up. You must keep on going for it. It means striving to be better today than you were yesterday. That is, how records or medals are won,” he explained.

Van Vuuren will be based in Italy in June to prepare for the Paris Games. He plans to compete at least five times.

His coach, Neil Cornelius, has the unique distinction of being the only South African coach to have guided an athlete to win a medal at the Olympic Games as well as the Paralympic Games. 

In 2016, Luvo Manyonga won the men’s long jump silver medal at the Rio Olympics. At the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics in Japan, Ntando Mahlangu won gold in the men’s T63 long jump. 


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