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Mundell motors to new national 50km walk record

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By Mark Etheridge

London Olympian Marc Mundell’s dogged determination to walk the walk is paying off if his latest achievement is anything to go by.
Earlier this year, Mundell resigned from his full-time job to throw everything behind not only being part of Team South Africa in Rio but to be competitive at the same time.
The 32-year-old has been in Australia for the past few seven weeks on an international training camp and nutritional research study at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
The weekend before his return to South Africa saw him race the Australian national 50km walk championships which doubled as that nation’s Olympic trials.
Result? A new national walk record of 3hr 54min 12sec, 80 seconds inside his previous best and certainly proof that the decision to go the full-time route is paying off.
That new best time saw him end third behind Canada’s Evan Dunfee 3:43:45 and the host nation’s Chris Erickson (3:54:10). The top six athletes all walked under the revised Olympic qualifying standard of 4:06:00.
Speaking to Road to Rio 2016, Mundell explained the reasoning behind his drastic decision to swop work for walking.
‘After my disappointment at World Championships in Beijing I realised that I again needed to make some changes to the way I approach my racing. My breakthrough came when I was able to accept and come to terms with the fact that there would be no funding or support with my preparations for the Olympics this year, having met the IAAF qualifying standards in March and then the SASCOC and IAAF standards again at the World Championships in August.
‘I had created an expectation in my head that there would be support upon qualifying and I allowed myself to get all worked up about it. It really soured my mood and relationships. I made a promise to myself that I would spend all my savings and borrow wherever necessary to achieve my dreams. ‘That reduced all the pressure and unhappiness.
In Australia I worked very closely with the research study coordinator, Dr Louise Bourke and her team of nutritionists to ensure optimal nutrition and hydration during the race.  This had been a shortcoming for me since 2013 and getting my nutrition and seconding right was crucial for my journey to Rio. I had a designated person at the drinks station (something that is crucial for endurance events) who calculated, monitored and weighed my carbohydrate, caffeine and fluid intake throughout the race.
‘I had a superb race and was incredibly consistent and comfortable from the very first lap. I held a constant pace for much of the race and was delighted to record negative splits over 50km – something which I have been unable to achieve since my performance in London 2012.
‘This is a monumental confidence booster as it was my third Olympic qualifying performance of the year over 50km. After quitting my job and backing myself fully together with the unwavering support and encouragement of my wife and family, I took a leap of faith to train full-time and deliver the best performance I’m capable of delivering and got the result in Melbourne that I had hoped for in Beijing.
‘It’s unfortunate that so little is done in Africa to promote the 50km event. Although it is an Olympic track and field event, the event is not contested at the African Athletics Championships or African Games ensuring that no continental champion is ever crowned.
‘I’m also disheartened by the fact that no South African race walkers can qualify for senior international teams in South Africa as no meetings are held in the country (with the exception of the 2011 50km national championships) that meet the IAAF judging criteria.
‘Accordingly all aspiring SA race walkers have to pay their own way to race abroad. It is testimony to the resolve of many of the senior walkers and current coaches (Carl Meyer, Chris Britz and Oliver Mundell among others) that the sport remains alive in the country.
‘This is further emphasised by the fact that both Lebogang Shange (20km) and myself have qualified for Rio and are ranked in the world top 50 according to the latest 2015 ranking lists, whilst Anel Oosthuizen and Wayne Snyman are in sight of Top 100 rankings and Olympic qualification performances in their respective 20km events.. My aspiration is that more athletes will take up the sport and aspire to compete at the Olympic Games and world championships. It is possible…’
And the road ahead: ‘Well, this performance was an early Christmas present for me although my coach, Jamie Costin of Ireland, anticipated the result. I think there’s still more in my tank for 2016 and it has shown that I’m still improving and getting stronger as an endurance athlete. We’ll reassess the year ahead now and focus on getting faster over 20km in the coming months whilst attending the follow up camp in Australia next month. The remainder of the year  includes the race walking world cup, Africa Champs in Durban and the Olympics.
‘I greatly appreciate the funding assistance that i received from AGN race walking, which made this trip to Australia possible. I am further indebted to the continued support of the high performance center, Flux Communications and the ASG Group. I am fully committed to borrowing/taking-out-a-loan to deliver the best results possible in Rio.’


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