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Super Shange heralded by fellow SA race walkers

Shange

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s fellow race walkers were over the moon at compatriot Lebogang Shange’s fine fourth place in the 20-kilometre race walk on the final day of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in London on Sunday.

Shange had a super surge after the halfway mark and was mixing it with the world’s best at the head of the race, before slipping back inside the last two kilometres or so… he went on to end fourth in a new national record of 1hr 19min 18sec, an agonising 14 seconds shy of the bronze medal time after 20km of all-out racing.

Compatriot and fellow Rio Olympian race walker Anel Oosthuizen told Team SA: ‘What a fantastic race. He made his move at the right time and to get an SA record is just amazing.

‘It just goes to show that anything is possible on the day. To progress from 44th at the Olympics a year ago to fourth today – huge respect.’

Another Olympic walker from London and Rio, Marc Mundell, was also full of praise for the African Games 20km champion from two years ago in Brazzaville, Congo.

Mundell was at the race on London’s Mall. He’d already booked his ticket to London for a training camp ahead of the men’s 50km race, but like Oosthuizen and fellow 20km walker Wayne Snyman, was overlooked by the national selectors.

‘Lebo has singlehandedly elevated South African race walking to the highest heights in the post-apartheid era,’ Mundell told Team SA. ‘He also nearly eclipsed the long-held African record by Tunisia’s Hatem Ghoula.’

That mark stands at 1:19:02 and was set 20 years ago.

‘Lebo put the disappointment of Rome and Rio behind him and let rip in London.

‘He actually had the announcer stymied as he kept announcing that Lebo was being lapped, much to the surprise of all the supporters and fans on the route.

‘Lebo patiently let the lead bunch go and then, similarly to Beijing, he clawed them back one by one. It’s a coming-of-age performance and establishes Lebo among the international echelon of elite walkers. It won’t be long before South African race walking has an international medallist, and hopefully this is one giant stride for SA race walking.

‘Hopefully South African race walking will increase its popularity and attract more athletes.’

Mundell went on to look ahead for the fast-growing athletics discipline. ‘Maybe in future, SA race walkers will be able to qualify at home and then receive funding and support for training camps.

‘This may well be the primer for Lebo to get on to the podium at the race walking World Cup next May. He may well even anchor a team, together with Wayne [Snyman], to compete for a 20km team medal.’

shange

Mundell also expressed the hope that this most recent success would see SA hosting a first-ever race walking World Cup in Africa.

On Snyman’s part, he said: ‘Wow. Lebo was fantastic. The way he approached the race was simply amazing. His last 5km must have been sub 19min. At one stage I think everyone thought he was going to win. This is a great step forward for SA walking.’

Snyman qualified more than five times for the World Championships, but never made the final cut.

Just last week he walked a time of 1:21:06 in Cape Town, which would have been worthy of a top-20 place in London. And that was a solo effort without the race atmosphere and competitive element which would have made him a lot quicker.

Snyman is also refusing to let his exclusion from the team get him down.

‘I will go to China for that four-day team race late next month and then get myself into gear for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.’

Pictures of Shange giving thanks after his race and then in action at the head of the field courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA


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