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Shange out to walk his way into the record books
- Updated: January 30, 2015
If race walker Lebogang Shange has any say in it, one of South Africa’s oldest track and field records will be history before the end of the year.
Shange, who is sponsored by Tuks High Performance Centre (hpc), is determined to go all out to break the 20-kilometre race walk record (1hr 22min 21sec) that was set by his coach, Chris Britz, in 1996 in Eissenhuttenstadt, Germany
But Shange is not one for small dreams. ‘I also want to get a top-10 finish at the World Championships in Beijing.’
Taking into account that no South African race walker has managed to get close to a top-10 finish at a World Championship, Shange might seem slightly over-ambitious.
‘I don’t think I am over-ambitious. Remember, to be able to break the South African record I will have to be capable of walking times of 1:22:00 and faster. I had a look at last year’s rankings list on the IAAF website and a time of 1:21:00 would place me among the top 40 in the world. Also remember that in a championships race anything can happen, especially if it is tactical.’
If last year’s statistics are anything to go by, Shange is certainly an athlete on the rise. He started off his international campaign with a 19th place finish in the IAAF Race Walking European Permit meeting in Lugano, Switzerland. Although his time of 1:25:20 was a personal best, Shange was actually only warming up. Six days later in Dudince, Hungary, he finished fourth in another personal best time of 1:24:09. This was the second fastest time ever walked by a South African.
It is important to note that Shange managed to drop 1:39 off his time last year.
Shange was also dominant at the African Championships in Marrakesh, Morocco, where he won in a time of 1:26:58. According to him he was in such control that he could afford to play games with his rivals during the race, upping the pace and then slowing down slightly a kilometre later. However, after 14km he decided to make a break and to finish off what he had started.
Shange said he converted to race walking after watching the 50km race of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. ‘I’m slightly ‘lazy’ by nature and watching the race intrigued me. It just looked so easy, almost like a walk in the park, and it was hard to believe that it was an Olympic sport. But when I started walking I soon realised that there was more to race walking than I thought. I then began to read up about it on the internet.
‘I also made contact with as many other race walkers as I could, trying to pick their brains in an effort to find out what I had do to be able to walk faster times.’
Race walkers, Bob and Brenda Wakfer, Tshepo Khoza (coach), as well as the coaches at Elana Meyer’s Endurocad – SA Endurance Academy, all played a part in helping Shange to improve.
But his career as a race walker only really got going when Shange met up with Britz and became a sponsored athlete at hpc.
Dr Helen Bayne from hpc said: ‘Lebo was assessed by our sports science and medicine unit (SSMU) to identify any issues that may increase the risk of injury or negatively affect his performance. At first, one of the areas he needed to work on was improving his core strength and control. He improved rapidly while working with our strength and conditioning specialists.’
When asked how he was going to improve his time by a further two minutes, Shange said: ‘I have to stay disciplined, put in the long hours and keep an open mind to advice.’
If everything goes according to plan Shange hopes to be off to Europe at the end of March to start his international campaign for the season.