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Shange aims to shine in London… Snyman also on song

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A few years back, with only a pair of long pants, shorts, a jacket and one pair of shoes in his ‘school bag’, Lebogang Shange embarked on a journey that would change his life for good.

A decisive move from Orange Farm, a well-known Johannesburg settlement, to a ‘camp with a difference’ that would allow him to travel the world with the (wait for it) ever so ‘looked-down-upon’ sport: race walking. And now he’s in World Championships action in London!

‘There’s one thing I remember, there’s this guy called Themba Gwala. They would call us and talk to us individually in a room and they asked: “What do you want to achieve within the next six months?”

‘And my answer was: “You saw that I only came here with that school bag, so I want success, I want to be someone, I want to be better in life and I’ll be happy to see my improvement in the next six months, or even three months”.’

With such an attitude, anyone can achieve anything. Shange is a good example of ‘putting your money where your mouth is’.

In January and February 2011, he remained consistent and committed all his time to all the sessions set up by coach Tshepo Khoza.

On a wet Germiston track in March that year, Shange was introduced to race walking, when out of nowhere, he clocked one hour 30min  in the 20,000 metre race walk! Since then, the Tuks High Performance Centre-based athlete has set numerous South African race walk records, including the senior 20km that was previously held by his current coach, Chris Britz.

‘When 2012 came, my time dropped to 1:29 and all of a sudden 1hr 25min, a new SA U23 record,’ mentioned an excited Shange, who now holds the 5000m, 10000m, 20000m and 20km South African race walk records.

At 2:30pm on Sunday, Shange’s journey takes another step when he’ll be in action in London at the IAAF World Championships in the men’s 20km race walk. Although he’s had a slow build-up to these championships, he should be able to walk under 1:21, thus making him one of the favourites to be in medal contention.

But while Shange is enjoying the ride at the top, Wayne Snyman, the 2017 South African 20km race walk champion, was left languishing at the gate.

But the self-funded athlete still managed to stand tall. After being excluded from ASA’s World Championships team, despite qualifying more than twice, Snyman responded by walking a new South African 10km record at a Western Province Athletics Race Walking Grand Prix at the Youngsfield Military Base last Saturday.

He looked comfortable as he passed the first 2km in under 8min 30sec, an indication of the shape he currently finds himself in.

Being alone was the last thing he needed, but to pass the 10km mark under 40:40 meant that the sought-after sub 1:21 minutes was on the cards. But the wind didn’t help him, and when he needed a sub 16min final 4km to achieve that goal, he fell short of his goal.

Crossing the line in a nail-biting 1:21:06 after a faster second 10km, there was soon talk of his second 10km being a new South African record.

Snyman would’ve been in the mix of things had he been selected to compete in London, but being the class sportsman that he is, he had this to say: ‘This time could’ve gotten me a top-10 finish in London, but every race is different and the conditions change the results. But if I was selected and I had this one week left to prepare, I know I would’ve gone faster, and yes I’m disappointed for not being selected, but have I moved on.

‘I’m now supporting all the athletes in London and I wish all of them the best.’

If you think this was the end for Wayne Snyman, think again. With the SA 3000m, 10km and 30km records to his name, it is clear he boasts the speed, endurance, mental toughness and strength to compete against the best in the world.

‘It’s always special walking a SA record, but I’m more excited that my second 10km was faster than the first. The goal was to be as consistent as possible this season and I’ve done a good job,’ added the Pretoria-based athlete.

He’s building a reputation as one of the sport’s hardest working athletes, and by the looks of it things can only go onward and upwards in the future. With the Commonwealth Games only eight months away, a training programme that starts on the base phase of 1:21 in race walking makes him a serious contender, come 4 April 2018.

After a long and somewhat disappointing season, Snyman is now enjoying a well-deserved holiday somewhere along the coast. So don’t be surprised if you see a potential Commonwealth medallist race walker flying past…

Picture of Shange and Snyman at last year’s national championships courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA

Hufkie is a Cape Town-based sports freelancer


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