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Shange looks to walk the walk at World Championships

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South African race-walking champion Lebogang Shange has developed race walking into a true art and it wouldn’t be surprising if he sets another national record at the World Championships in Beijing on Sunday morning.
The amazing aspect of Shange’s performances so far this season has been his uncanny ability to predict exactly what he was going to do and then go out and do it.
Shange’s positive verbal approach has probably been one of the reasons why he was able to claim no less than four SA records in the space of five months. It has been more than 10 years since any local race walker has gone on such a dramatic record-breaking spree.
But the gutsy walker has greater ambitions than merely breaking a record at the Championships.
‘I won’t lie. There can be no greater honour than winning a medal for my country at an Olympic Games or a World Championships. For me that would definitely be the ultimate and, if I should manage to do it, South Africans would hopefully begin to look at race walking as a serious sport.’
Though Shange admits that winning a medal in the 20km walk on Sunday morning (2.30am SA time) will be a tall order, nothing is going to prevent him from going for it. ‘I’m realistic about my abilities. Even if I do not win a medal, the other athletes will certainly know that they have raced against me. I will be racing with an attitude of no fear,’ the Tuks/HPC athlete said.
‘It’s important to believe in your own abilities. The first time I competed in Europe I got the impression that the international athletes did not really respect the South African race walkers. We were seen as people who were just there to make up the numbers. This irked me somewhat, but it also served as an extra motivation for me to work harder. My goal this year is to take the racing to the international athletes. It was important to me that they should respect me and I think I have succeeded, even if it was only in a small way.’
The Tuks/HPC athlete said it is important to stick to his own game plan.
‘It is easy to get carried away in such a big race and I plan to walk at a pace with which I am comfortable for the first 12 or so kilometres. If I am still up front with the leaders at that stage, I will up my pace and go into race mode. Over the last five kilometres I will show no mercy and take no prisoners.’
According to Shange’s coach, Chris Britz, a top-10 finish is a realistic goal.
‘Because there is so much at stake, the race tactics at a World Championships is normally quite different from that in other international races. This means that if Lebogang can keep his cool and is able to walk at a pace of 1hr 21min, he will be close to the leaders. On a good day he might be able to get a top-five finish or even contest for the bronze medal, but at this stage I will be happy with a top-10 finish.’


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