By Mark Etheridge
There was an extra spring in walker Wayne Snyman’s step when he arrived back in South Africa from Australia this week.
That’s because the Pretoria athlete has made some great strides in his now professional career after a training camp in Australia.
He’ll no doubt be as pleased as punch to return with two excellent milestones with him.
Earlier this month he walked to a 3000-metre SA track record and just a few days before his return strode to a huge new personal best 20km time in the Australian race-walking championships in Adelaide.
The latter time will no doubt serve as something of an early birthday present as he celebrates his 31st birthday early next month.
Snyman’s new best was a 1hr 21min 45sec, clipping 1:57sec off the old mark set at last year’s South African Championships in Stellenbosch.
Next up will be a 20km race in Dudinsk, Slovakia on 19 March and he jets off with wife Nadelene just a day before his birthday.
Snyman, pictured far right along with fellow SA walkers Marc Mundell and Lebogang Shange, told Road to Rio 2016 about his latest achievement as he recovered from his long flight back this week. ‘We came through to Adelaide on Thursday with a great week of training behind us as a group. I needed to check out Sunday’s course as I’d never raced there before. ‘The course had some inclines and decline but nothing that I haven’t raced or trained on before. My preparation in that three days was perfect.’
Race day dawned with excellent conditions, no wind to speak of and not overly warm.
‘We had a huge group of fast guys so I knew the race was going to be fast. My race strategy was simple, to go with the leading group for as long as I could and hold on. And so I did.’
A slow start soon developed into dog-eat-dog situation and the lead pack of eight walkers.
‘All of them had far more experience than me. After 5km we dropped the pace to sub 4min per kilometre and I knew this is where the race was getting interesting. This was way out of my comfort zone but I was determined to hold on. I did hold on till 14km and the pack reduced to six walkers and I knew that I had to keep working. The last two kays were absolute torture. I was hurting all over but I knew I’d done enough to walk a fast time.’
And the encouraging thing is that Snyman has already identified areas of improvement.
‘The race wasn’t perfect with me cramping in the first 6km, dropping drinks at eight and 12km and then also not being able to get water most of the time, but I was determined to race hard.
‘My coach kept me calm throughout the race and I knew I was strong enough to get the time.’
Looking forward to Slovakia and Snyman says: ‘My goal will be to repeat my performance and show consistency. That will help me to get top five. I’m chasing the perfect race and if that’s the case, I will hopefully walk another PB and improve my chances of an Olympic spot later this year.’