Despite an injury setback at the Olympic Games in Rio this year, University of Johannesburg long jumper Ruswahl Samaai is facing the future confident he can unlock his potential.
The 24-year-old was recognised for his efforts during 2016 by being named UJ’s Sportsman of the Year at their annual awards function last month.
Reflecting on his year, the Johannesburg-based double national champion said it had “been an amazing season”.
“There were some lows, but I’ve learnt from this season and for me it is just a matter of keeping my head up and to keep aiming for my goals,” he said.
Although hampered by a hamstring tear at the Olympics, Samaai still managed to qualify for the final, jumping to ninth place with a best leap of 7.97m.
The transportation management student, who grew up in the Boland where he attended Paarl Gymnasium, said he wanted to jump farther next year than he had before and felt confident he could achieve that.
“My targets this year were not met due to the injury at the Olympics, but when I looked back on what I achieved, I realised the potential is there to improve.
“I’m working my way through that whole process and I know it will come.”
Samaai said he was strongly motivated to further prove his worth in the World Championships in London next year.
“My main goal is to qualify for that, which I know I can achieve. I also want to retain my national title to make it three years in a row and to improve my overall skills.”
The UJ student-athlete said he would strive to move to the next level by improving small aspects in his discipline.
“For me it’s all about finding the little things I can do to improve my technique, my run-up and my jumping.
“I know it’s hard to keep improving all the time but I always want to find a way to do that. I also want to add greater consistency to my jumping during meetings.”
Asked what message he had for aspiring athletes aiming for success, Samaai said it was all down to “hard work, dedication and faith”.
“If you put in the necessary work, success will come,” he said. “The most important thing is if you work hard now, keep your faith and stay dedicated, you will reap the rewards.”
Being named UJ Sportsman of the Year meant Samaai was able to tick a box in his goals for the year.
“This is one of the goals I wanted to achieve and to get this was such a blessing and an honour because you are judged not only against fellow athletes but all the sporting codes in the varsity.”
He said he was working with strength and conditioning coach Morne Nagel, who had taken his physical state “to a whole new level this year”.
“He has played a huge role in my performances as have the biokineticists and physiotherapists I have worked with.
“Although you are on your own when you compete there’s a big team at UJ who have invested their time in me and that has been very important for my career.”