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SA race walking resurgence continues as Shange surges to another SA record
- Updated: February 24, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
Lebogang Shange wrapped up his Australian campaign in style on Sunday with a new South African 20km walk record.
‘There’s good news and bad news,’ he told Road to Rio 2016 from Adelaide.
‘The good news is that I got a new record… the bad news is that I only finished second!’
Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith won the race, the Australian 20km Race Walking Championships, in 1hr 20min 04sec with Shange just two seconds behind and a further 2sec ahead of Canadian Ben Thorn. Bird-Smith won World Student Games in 2015 with Thorn second, whilst Thorn finished third at the 2015 World Champs.
Before yesterday, Shange’s SA mark was the 1:21:43 he clocked at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China.
‘I was in the front pack for most of the race, going through 10km in 40:44 which was very encouraging and I was also very pleased to walk the second half faster in just over 39min.
‘I took the lead in the last 200m but Dane came past from nowhere to just pip me.
‘Conditions were good for walking though, 25 degrees Celsius or so with no wind to speak of.’
Shange returned to South Africa late on Monday, along with 2012 Olympics 50km walker Marc Mundell who was 13th on Sunday in 1:27.08.
The other big news for SA race walking was Wayne Snyman’s eighth spot in a huge personal best of 1:21.45, which is also inside the Olympic Games qualifying mark of 1:24:00. [Wayne has been competing internationally since 2006 and this is his big break through, having resigned from his teaching position in December to fully pursue his qualification quest!]
Next up for Shange are races in Mexico and Portugal. ‘They’re both IAAF Challenge events, on 6 March and then 9 April.’
Mundell also came back home on Monday while Snyman has opted to take a few days breathing space and gets back on Thursday. Both will be competing in Dudince, Slovakia on 19 March in the 50km and 20km distances respectively, together with several other South African athletes.
Said Mundell: ‘SA race-walking is in a seriously good space at the moment. All three of us have been here in Australia since early January for three seven weeks or so and have all bettered Olympic qualifying times while away.
‘Lebo has come along in leaps and bounds and there’s no doubting that the established international walkers have to take him seriously now, he’s proved that in the last few months.
And Mundell says that the sport could raise its profile even higher at the African Championships in Durban in June. ‘I’ve heard that Lebo even wants to privately fund a busload of [#teamshange] supporters from Johannesburg so that they can come and be part of the action.’ He is doing so much to promote and advance the sport throughout South Africa!