Challenge SPORT

Worth the leap

Champion long jump and triple jump athlete shares where he finds his strength

Godfrey Khotso Mokoena in England
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 4, 2012: Godfrey Khotso Mokoena of South Africa competes in the Men’s Long Jump Final at the London Olympic Games. (Photo Stu Forster/Getty Images)

South African athletics star Godfrey Khotso Mokoena has his sights set on a competitive year after securing his third Diamond League victory plus Commonwealth and African titles to cap off an exciting 2014 season.

Best known for his silver medal in long jump at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Khotso has also won medals at the Commonwealth Games, World Indoor Championships and the All-African Games.

Khotso currently holds the African continent long jump record with a jump of 8.50 meters, plus the South African national triple jump record of 17.25 meters.

Some may say he has a natural sporting ability but Khotso attributes his success to God's providence.

"For me as a Christian I know God is everywhere," Khotso says after committing his life to Jesus as Lord and Saviour in 2003.

Khotso Mokoena in Scotland
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 2, 2014: Gold medallist Khotso Mokoena of South Africa on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men’s Triple Jump at the 2014 Commonwealth Game. (Photo Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

"Without God I cannot perform and without Him I would not be where I am today. All these years He has kept me going strong and He is still doing that today."

Born in Heidelberg, Khotso grew up in a Christian family where he says he realised that he had to make a choice to follow God or turn away from Him.

"There are two ways – life with God or life without God," he explains. "Christ died on the cross for all of us but we have free will, a choice (to accept Him or not). If you have made the wrong choice you can always come back to God and say 'I am sorry'."

“There are some pains we have to handle in life in order to receive that victory”Khotso says because he is a born-again Christian he knows that God's presence is with him wherever he goes, which gives him confidence to pray to God wherever he may be.

Whether facing life's victories or defeats, he adds that he has learnt to always trust in Jesus and not turn away from Him when circumstances change.

"A lot of people give up faith (in God) when they fail. I have failed so many times in my life," he shares.

"You cannot win without failing first. Christ didn't just save everybody just like that, He was tormented first. There are some pains we have to handle in life in order to receive that victory."

To people who are struggling through hard times, Khoto says it is important to "stay strong and firm and stay believing (in Jesus)" because it is all part of the winning process.

Godfrey Khotso Mokoena
Moscow, August 14, 2013. South Africa’s Godfrey Khotso Mokoena competes in the men’s long jump at the 2013 IAAF World Championships. (Photo Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

"A lot of people give up before winning because they feel 'oh this pain is crazy, I'd rather move onto the easy side', only to find on the easy side there is no victory at all."

Khotso adds that one of his favourite Bible verses is from Hebrews 11 verse 1 which says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

He sees this faith in God as something similar to visualising himself competing for an athletics medal and eventually standing on the podium in victory at the end of his life.

"I cannot be in that [physical presence of God yet] so I have to hope for that presence and for that day to come," he says. "Every year I try to develop a walk that is closer to God."

To do this, Khotso says it is important to prepare himself spiritually and mentally each day through prayer.

"In the mornings I always pray and leave everything in God's hands and then I got out and do the best that I can do. Prayer is not just a form of talking to God but also a form of renewing yourself each time."

He also takes opportunities to share God's love with others and says, "No matter what happens God has great plans for all of us. So no matter what happens if we stick to the right mindset and believe His Word, (His promises) will come to pass and will never die."

To some faith in God is a giant leap, but Khotso plans to remain firmly trusting Jesus till the end.

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