Luvo Manyonga set to face nemesis in Sweden

21 May 2019 - 12:20 By David Isaacson
Luvo Manyonga takes part in the men's long jump during the SA championships in April 2019.
Luvo Manyonga takes part in the men's long jump during the SA championships in April 2019.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

SA long-jump star Luvo Manyonga is set to face his nemesis‚ Juan Miguel Echevarria of Cuba‚ for the first time this season at the next Diamond League meet in Stockholm next week.

The line-up on the organiser’s website shows that Manyonga’s compatriot Ruswahl Samaai‚ Olympic champion Jeff Henderson of the US and Jamaica’s rising star Tajay Gayle will be in action on May 30 too.

Henderson is the top jumper for 2019 so far on 8.38m‚ ahead of Manyonga (8.35) and Gayle (8.30).

Echevarria's 8.92 from March didn't count because of an illegal tail wind.

But if last season’s performances are anything to go by‚ the contest for top honours will be between Manyonga and Echevarria.

Manyonga‚ who went unbeaten in 2017‚ was defeated a few times by the Caribbean upstart.

They went head to head on six occasions in 2018 and the South African triumphed twice and Echevarria four times.

Manyonga won their first indoor showdown at Metz‚ but was pipped in the second‚ at the world indoor championships.

Manyonga again won their opening contest in the open air‚ taking first place at the Diamond League meet in Rome.

But then he tasted defeat three times in a row‚ at Stockholm‚ Ostrava and Bad Langensalza. He actually ended third in Stockholm last year‚ with Henderson finishing second.

Another telling statistic is that Echevarria’s 8.68 personal best from last year is 3cm longer than Manyonga’s 8.65 from 2017.

If both men are on fire‚ the 8.95 world record could be under threat.

Meanwhile‚ organisers believe Wayde van Niekerk’s 43.03sec 400m world record could be in danger from new American star Michael Norman.

The US speedster last month opened his season with an impressive 43.45 — making him the joint fourth-fastest ever over the distance — and followed that up with a 19.84 200m in Japan.

Van Niekerk‚ who has yet to make his comeback from his knee injury‚ posted a 19.84 best in the 200m in 2017.

If Norman is going to go faster‚ Van Niekerk’s 400m mark could well fall this season‚ if not in Sweden.

“Michael Norman is the most exciting runner in the world at the moment after opening his season a month ago just four tenths of a second from the world record‚” said Jan Kowalski‚ meeting director of the Stockholm competition known as Bauhaus-galan.

“On Sunday he ran 200m in 19.84 into a headwind and I think that he can challenge the 400m world record in Stockholm.”