National long jump champion Zinzi Chabangu sprouted wings to smash her personal best in the triple jump at the UJ Athletics Invitational meeting recently.
“I’m happy with my performance,” said the 19-year-old University of Johannesburg sport psychology student. “My target was 13.50m and I went 10cm beyond that.”
Although still early in the season, it is evident that the junior national triple jump record-holder is already making huge strides towards her goals.
“My objectives before the season were simply to remain dedicated throughout training and to try and eat clean,” said Chabangu, who represented South Africa at the World Student Games and African Games last year.
“Now my goal is to keep on breaking my personal bests until the end of the season.”
Although she fell short in the long jump event at UJ, she said she did not favour one of the jumps above the other.
She was the top-ranked junior in both disciplines last year and “graduated” with gold and silver (triple jump) medals at senior nationals.
Besides trying to defy gravity, Chabangu said she had a soft spot for people.
“Growing up in Kagiso Township, I have witnessed a lot of emotional abuse. Had I not studied sport psychology, I would have enrolled for a normal psychology degree.
“I’ve always wanted to work with people and help them deal with societal and emotional problems.”
Chabangu is now focusing on the UJ Athletics Championships on February 24 before heading to the first Varsity Athletics meeting in Stellenbosch on March 4.
She said she would prepare for these competitions alongside her UJ jumping academy teammates and under the watchful eye of her coach Maryna van Niekerk.