Series18 Jul 2016

First impressions – Ruswahl Samaai


Ruswahl Samaai in the long jump at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Ruswahl Samaai has emerged over the past couple of years as one of the world’s elite long jumpers. Here the South African, who was the winner at May's IAAF Diamond League fixture in Rabat, gives his thoughts on our First Impressions questions. 

First athletics coach

His name was Raymond Julius and he played a significant role in my early career. He taught me so many basics of the sport and opened my eyes to the possibilities of track and field.

First athletics competition

It was a school sprint. I was very small at that time, probably aged five or six. I remember my family came to watch me and my mother arrived late. I was sitting in the blocks at the time and she started calling my name. I looked back and I started waving at her. I don’t think the other kids in the race were too happy because she kind of messed up everyone’s race. I think I finished fifth or sixth in the race.

First sport

It has always been track and field. I started out as a sprinter, but I also experienced hurdles, high jump, lots of the events before settling on long jump. I even did cross country, although that was just for fun. I remember one cross country course we competed on there was a certain place on the course where I knew I could grab some guavas for some food. So at a certain point on the course when the field turned left, I turned right to get some fruit. I would then continue on my way to finish the race.   

First international meeting

It came in 2012 in Mozambique. I remember it wasn’t the best attended event and the only spectators in the stadium were the athletes! It was a good competition for me, as I won the long jump. I was just excited to be part of a South African team.  

First disappointment

The first big disappointment I remember came at the Beijing World Championships (Samaai finished 20th and failed to qualify for the final). I had started the season so well and I thought 2015 would be my breakthrough year, but then I picked up an injury which ruled me out for a large part of the season. I then slowly got back into shape and then on the day (in Beijing) everything went wrong. It was the biggest disappointment of my athletics career. I was so mad at the world and I didn’t want to talk to my coach or my family. It took about two weeks to get over the disappointment, before I realised my coach and family were there to support me. I then made my peace with the World Championships and moved on.

First piece of clothing bought 

It was a pair of spikes. I was working at the time in a cafeteria during the December holidays and I thought to myself this month I am going to buy some new spikes. In previous years I had been given spikes, but some of the pairs didn’t fit me. I bought myself a pair of spikes and they lasted until 2013.

First toy

My mother used to tell me I had this big teddy bear I used to hug and carry around, I can’t recall it because I was too young back then!

First thing learned to cook

Like many people I learned to cook eggs first. I learned a lot about cooking my mother, she is a good cook and I too have developed into a good chef. My first dish was scrambled eggs. I like to cook anything healthy. My favourite food is pasta, although that is one thing I am not so confident cooking.

First ever car

I don’t have a car, in fact I cannot drive. I never have time to learn. I am always training, working and going somewhere or doing something. If I did have a car I’d buy an Audi because it is a gentleman’s car!

First ever pet

It was a dog. I have honestly forgotten the name, although to be honest I’m not a huge fan of dogs.

Steve Landells for the IAAF

Pages related to this article