South Africa's Luvo Manyonga celebrates winning the silver medal in the men's long jump (AP Photo/David Goldman)
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Luvo Manyonga took the lead on the long jump in Rio by soaring a personal best. It might have been enough to win gold, but his sixth and final attempt was a no jump and the South African could only watch as Jeff Henderson knocked him to silver on his last jump with a margin of victory of just 1 centimeter.
A silver medal, though, far beats being dead.
A mere four years ago, Manyonga's life had spiraled out of control and his family and friends feared his addiction to crystal meth was going to kill him.
The addiction cost Manyonga years in his career _ he was banned 18 months for a postive drug test in 2012 _ and fractured his relationship with the coach who discovered him. Mario Smith had stood by the athlete despite his struggles until he had to walk away.
Then, in 2014, Smith was killed in a car accident. Manyonga has said in previous interviews that Smith was on his way to his house to try to repair the relationship when he was killed, and that Manyonga chose to get high rather than attend Smith's memorial service.
Manyonga eventually took the steps needed to get clean, and he returned to competition this year after a four-year absence. He jumped a world-leading and personal best distance of 8.30 in March, and on Saturday night he won South Africa its sixth medal at the Rio Olympics.
In that moment, losing to Henderson by a fingernail wasn't so big a deal considering where he'd come from.
"I've been waiting for this for four years," he said. "I was disappointed when he jumped a (8.38m), I thought I had it, but he took it from me. No big deal, it's just a competition."