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Shange, Mundell make great strides for SA walking
- Updated: March 27, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
Of course the phrase is not literally applicable to the code but South African walking IS coming along in leaps and bounds just recently.
Not one but two walkers have already met the IAAF qualifying standards for the World Athletics Championships in China later this year as well as the IAAF standards for Rio 2016.
They are the in-form Lebogang Shange who has broken two SA walk records (3000m – 11min 20.39sec and 20km – 1hr 21min 50sec) in recent weeks and 2012 Olympian Marc Mundell, pictured above.
Four of the country’s top walkers – the previously mentioned two plus Corli Swart and Wayne Snyman – headed for Europe in search for qualification times.
Swart and Shange raced over the 20km in Lugano, Italy before moving over to Dudince, Slovakia while Snyman and Mundell tackled the longer 50km distance in Slovakia.
Said Mundell on his return to South Africa: ‘Lebo walked his second Olympic qualifying time and won the World Cup event in Dudince, joining an illustrious list of past winners. This in itself is a huge boost for South African and African race walking.
‘Corli walked well to finish in a time of 1hr 43min 13sec, outside the qualification requirements at the moment. Wayne unfortunately withdrew at 44km and both will look at other races later this season in a bid to qualify for the world championships and Olympics.’
Mundell was particularly pleased with his personal form as he clocked 3:56:47. ‘It was my second best ever and best performance since my knee surgery in 2012. I’m confident that my leg has now fully recovered and that I’ll be totally capable of building on from this new base in preparation for Beijing and Rio,’ he told Road to Rio 2016.
‘Obviously it’s still difficult as an athlete aiming for an undisclosed qualification requirement as SASCOC still need to finalise their requirements and selection policy.
‘But I’m delighted that now two South African walkers have qualified for the Olympics as the last time that a male walker competed in the Olympic 20km was George Hazel back in 1960.’
An illustration of the good space SA walking finds itself in is that back between 2000 and 2011 not one male walker qualified for World Championships or Olympics.
‘Already this year, Anel [Oosthuizen] has raced world juniors Pierre [Vermaak] is on course for world youth champs later this year and both Lebo and I competed at the 2013 world championships in Moscow and qualified for Beijing… and there’s a possibility of others also doing so. There’s definitely a resurgence in this new generation of race walkers in South Africa.
‘I’m optimistic that we could have five walkers in Beijing, all of whom meet the IAAF requirements.’
Talking of the IAAF, there are still sticking points in the local walking fraternity.
‘Our biggest challenge remains that no performances recorded in South Africa are recognised by the IAAF because we are unable to meet their requirements of three international judges. As a result any walkers intent on qualifying are forced to race abroad (fully self-funded).
‘It is unfortunately the only track and field discipline where athletes cannot qualify domestically which is an additional financial burden for all aspiring race walkers to overcome.’
Both Mundell and Shange are fully committed to training towards Beijing and at the same time, hopefully inspiring the next generation of South African walkers.