It may be too early to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and setting goals for 2024, but the former SA long jump champion, Jovan van Vuuren, already knows what he will do.
The Tuks master’s student plans to go big in 2024 or, more accurately, to go far. If he gets it right, there is a chance he could medal at the World Indoor Championships, regain the South African long jump title, and compete at the Paris Olympic Games.
Van Vuuren has good reason for already setting his goals. This year, he learned that a sports career can end in the blink of an eye.
In March, Van Vuuren was told by his doctor that the chances of him to ever competing at the highest level again, are close to zero. His right hamstring tendon was on the verge of snapping. If it did, he would have had to undergo an operation, and there were no guarantees. He could have ended up walking with a limp for the rest of his life.
He refused to give up on his dreams. With the support of Neil du Plessis (strength and conditioning coach), Greyling Viljoen (clinical psychologist), Steven Ball (TuksSport Director & Acting CEO of hpc), and everyone at Power2Health and PVM he started an intensive rehabilitation program.
In July, he got the good news that his tendon is healing. Two months ago, he got the green light to train on the track again. He even started jumping again. This experience has taught Van Vuuren not to take anything for granted ever again.
“To me, 2023 will always be the what-if year. I can’t help but wonder what I could have achieved if I did not get injured. The one thing I now know about sports is that there is no tomorrow. That is why, in 2024, I will live the moment. I will give 100% to achieve every goal I set,” said Van Vuuren, who won bronze during the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
According to Van Vuuren, he genuinely missed being on the track, pushing himself to the limits.
“The first day I stepped onto the track to train, I got an idea of what a caged dog must feel like when it is released to run. It was good to catch up with athletes and learn how their training has been going. I love the on-track athletics banter,” he remarked.
Van Vuuren believes his training has been going well and he gives a lot of credit to his coach, Neil Cornelius.
“Neil is a hard taskmaster, but also knows how to reign me in when I get over-excited and risk overdoing things. I don’t remember when I was in such good physical shape last. My body fat is at an all-time low,” he explained.
He and Cornelius decided to compete indoors because they believe he need to regain his confidence when competing.
“If everything goes to plan, I will be off to Europe at the end of January. The ultimate would be to qualify for the World Indoor Championships. If I do, the goal would be to medal. As far as I know, Khotso Mokoena and Luvo Manyonga are the only South African long jumpers to medal at an indoor championship,” Van Vuuren concluded.
Mokoena was indoor champion in 2008 and won silver in 2010. Manyonga won silver in 2018.
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