African champion and 2017 world bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai is one of the most consistent long jumpers on the international circuit. The 28-year-old South African takes a step back to his teenage years and offers some wise words of instruction.
I am very proud of you. It’s not easy growing up in a challenging community, where gangs and drugs are a part of everyday life, but you are making many good choices.
If you continue to do so, then you will stay on the right path to one day becoming a successful international athlete.
You know of many people in your community who have made bad choices, but you have been brought up well. Your family has taught you to be a good person and to respect everyone. You have clearly decided that this is the life you want to lead, and that is definitely a wise choice.
Ruswahl, you are finding ways to escape your environment. There is nothing you like more than regularly hanging out at the farm with a good friend. Swimming in the river or the dam there is something that excites you. It helps clear your mind.
Sport is also a key part of your life and that passion will continue into adulthood. You enjoy playing rugby, it feeds your competitive desires and you love the contact element to the sport.
Athletics, too, has also become an important part of your life. I know you enjoy sprinting at the moment, but it might be worth trying the horizontal jumps. You never know – you may find your future specialist event…
I can see that you are motivated to become the best version of yourself, and athletics helps you achieve this. You love the sport so much that five times a week you will walk the 12km round trip from your home to the athletics club for training.
You will walk through some rough neighbourhoods to reach the track but this will not deter you. You are lucky to have friends in those communities who will walk with you back and forth and keep you safe as you pass through some violent neighbourhoods.
Ruswahl, can I tell you that the journey you will undertake to reach the top will not be easy and you will take a lot of hits, physically and mentally. You may face criticism from people saying you are not good enough, will never be good enough and that you should quit. But you will not be deterred from your goals.
You have the ability to overcome these challenge because you are a fighter, a conqueror, and one day you will not only become a great athlete but an even greater person.
Steve Landells for World Athletics