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SA walkers shine in Europe… now for nationals
- Updated: April 11, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
Western Cape athletics fans will get to see new national 20-kilometre race-walking champion in action when the Gauteng athlete lines up at the South African athletics championships in Stellenbosch at the weekend.
Oosthuizen walked her way to both a national record (1hr 34min 49sec) which is also a provisional Olympic qualifying time in Podebrady, Czech Republic.
She flew back to South Africa on Monday after a stay of close on a month in Slovakia.
She told Road to Rio 2016: ‘This was the last of my European race before I come back to defend my SA title.
‘The race went well from the beginning. It may have been cold (about six degree Celsius).with rain but I’ve come to realise that you very seldom get perfect conditions so you just have to “create” them for yourself.
‘The last 4km were definitely among the hardest I’ve ever done. But, as someone once told me: “Harden up – it’s there, you just have to go and get it!”
‘With a time of 1:34:49 I can honestly say I’m just so happy. A SA record (old mark 1:36:18) and personal best by three minutes, I’m just so thankful.’
She went on to express her thanks for everyone involved in her success story. ‘The recent support from everyone, especially friends and family, was unbelievable. This was definitely one of my most successful overseas trips yet and I must single out the hospitality of the Slovakian group which comes to South Africa every year for a training camp – their efforts and support was amazing.
‘Hard work lies ahead but I’m more than motivated than ever.’
Another key element in Oosthuizen’s coming of age on the road is coach Carl Meyer. The East Rand based coach has now coached SA race walkers to an incredible 80 national record, and the second this year (Mizan Viljoen’s U18 5000m track record is the other).
No slouch himself, he holds the oldest SA athletics and race-walking record, the SA junior 5000m of 21:32.4 set way back in 1976!
‘Anel’s year on year improvement is consistent over the last four years with an average improvement of about 5% per year which is on par with sport science findings,’ Meyer told Road to Rio 2016. ‘So far this year we have seen an improvement of 3.52% over her PB last year of 1:38:03. So there is still room for a good improvement during the rest of this year. Luckily we have lots of time and the age of 20 Anel has no shortage of time to develop into the athlete I know she can be.
‘She’s a model athlete although we do have our hurdles to overcome. Last week she picked up a flu bug in Slovakia but with three days of rest we managed to get her physical condition back on track. And for the previous two years we constantly battled with a badly sprained ankle.
‘But with it all she is a great learner and never questions my advice. From my experience that’s the No1 prerequisite to become a high-performing athlete. Anel’s development as a competitive international athlete is entering its second phase of learning to compete well and this latest result is indicative of her ability to progress in the international arena.
‘During the next four years of her development as an international athlete our aim is to transfer her local winning prowess to a great international competition phase. South African race walking has a gem in Anel and she’s destined for greatness in South African athletics.’
Meanwhile, in other good news for SA walking the HPC’s Lebogang Shange (HPC) placed second in the 20km IAAF Race Walking event in Rio Maior, Portugal.
Alvaro Martin, last year’s European under-23 silver medallist, got the biggest win of his career when he took the men’s title in 1:21:03. Shange was in second place, 20 seconds later.
Ecuador’s Andres Chocho, winner of the South American Race Walking Championships last weekend, finished third in 1:21:58, showing very little after-effects of his hectic schedule.
HPC communications officer Wilhelm de Swardt says South African record holder Shange’s performance did not go unnoticed. The race-organiser told Shange afterwards that he was rooting for him because in the 25-year history of the event no athlete of Africa has ever managed to win it.
‘The organiser told me that if I had won he would have considered me to be the “Mandela’ of African Race Walking, which would have been a great honour,” the HPC-athlete said.
Shange’s consistency is beginning to pay dividends. He’s currently the leader on points in the IAAF Race Walking Challenge series, which is a first for South African athletics.
Last month, Shange’s fearless approach to racing led to him finishing third at the Circuito Internacional de Marcha 20km Race Walk event in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Being a perfectionist means that Shange is not really happy with his performance on Saturday. He didn’t say so outright but when he talked about how his race played out it was clear that he doesn’t race to finish second.
His definition of frustration is to have his legs ‘die’ on him in the last kilometre and then getting passed.
It seems as if Shange is starting to get the hang of racing aggressively. ‘On Saturday I immediately took the lead. While trying to work out what my race tactics would be I played with the idea of making the pace hard for a kilometre or so and then slowing down slightly over the next six kilometres.’
Shange, Martin and Chocho were racing shoulder to shoulder up to 15 kilometres but then the real battle started.
Chris Britz, Shange’s coach, is satisfied with the way Shange raced. ‘My main challenge from now until the Olympics will be to make sure that Lebogang does not overdo things. He has to realise that there’s still a long way to go before Rio. If he wants to be fit for the Games, he will have to save his legs.’
This week, like Oosthuizen, Shange will attempt to defend his South African title in Stellenbosch before he plans to go to a training camp in Spain.
His next international race will be the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships (7-8 May) in Rome, Italy.