Bison high jumper Alhaji Mansaray jumped onto the podium with a bronze medal at the 2017 Jeux de la Francophone in Côte d’Ivoire this July.
When asked about his 2.16 metre, bronze medal-earning performance at the 2017 Jeux de la Francophonie – the Francophonie Games – Mansaray was blunt and to the point.
“I had given up on my season. When I came here [to C’ôte d’Ivoir] and I competed, I was like, ‘I still have a meet and I need to pump myself up and get over it and just do it,’” he said.
“I actually wanted to jump higher than I did, but where I finished I was happy with, because at the end of the day it was better than what I had been doing all year.”
The defending U SPORTS gold medalist has been battling a knee injury for the better part of the last four seasons and it affected his performances entering the games.
“I went to Europe and competed in Germany and it didn’t go well. Then I took some time off and just travelled,” Mansaray said.
“I came back and had a meet at home and it didn’t go well either. Then I went to nationals and it didn’t go well, so it was a really bad season.”
The games served as Mansaray’s last meet of the outdoor season and he couldn’t have picked a better time to shine, given that he was participating against some of the top athletes from countries such as Belgium and France.
“Competition wise it was great,” he said. “I had people, obviously, that were way better than me and were jumping higher than me. I just ended up showing up that day.”
Mansaray now has two international medals to his name, after previously earning a bronze medal in El Salvador.
The four-time U SPORTS medalist also noted how critical the networking between athletes is, especially considering that he plans to continue training in other countries going forward.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “You meet new people and next year when I want to go to Belgium or something to compete, I have someone that would be like ‘oh, I’ll take care of you.’
“That aspect of it I love because it’s not every day that you get to meet people like that and we’re athletes, too, so we understand how the sport works.”
Aside from the talented athletes all around him, Mansaray said he was also taken aback by the resounding support the local fans provided.
“They were so into the event, they would clap and cheer and it was so loud in there it felt like you were watching a soccer game,” he said. “They were just excited to watch us jump.
“I was actually using that energy to make me jump higher, it was really good. I would probably say that was the best meet I’ve been to by far, just because of the energy and the people that came out to watch.”
The fifth year Bison will now put his focus toward the indoor season and defending his high jump crown against the rest of the nation.
The first meet for Mansaray and the Bisons is on Nov. 24 at the James Daly Fieldhouse at the annual Brown & Gold & White intersquad event.