Two national marks fell in China over the weekend as ultra-distance athlete Natalie le Roux and junior prospect Francois Jacobs rewrote the South African record books at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Taicang.
Worcester’s Le Roux finished 23rd in the 50km women’s race – the newest event to be added to the programme at the biennial championships – after covering the gruelling distance in 4hr 48min.
She bettered her own African record of 4:54:33 which was set in George, Southern Cape last year, while Rui Liang of China won a breakthrough contest, setting a new world record of 4:04:36.
Jacobs was also in great form, taking 36th position in 44:37 in the U20 men’s 10km race to shave 16 seconds off the 14-year-old national record of 44:53 set by Marthinus Esterhuizen in Oudtshoorn.
Antonio Farmer finished 42nd in 46:49, setting a personal best, while Jacques Heymans was 43rd in 49:53. The national junior squad ended 14th in the team competition.
In the 20km senior men’s race, 2016 Olympian and 2018 Commonwealth Games athlete Lebogang Shange produced a solid performance to grab 15th spot in 1:23:56, less than three minutes behind Japanese athlete Koki Ikeda who won in 1:21:13.
Shange took to social media to tell of his race: ‘Very happy with my individual 15th place. After a poor “winter” preparation due to family reasons and illness, this shines as gold. This is my best finishing position in this event ever. Now with everything back on the right track I’m looking forward to the preparation for African Champs where my main goal is to fight for the gold.’
Fellow Olympian and Team SA Commonwealth Games competitor Wayne Snyman finished 39th in 1:27:27, Sizwe Ndebele took 73rd place in 1:33:29 and Tebatso Mashimbyi was 77th in 1:35:08. The SA men’s squad finished 10th in the team contest.
Anel Oosthuizen, the only South African representative in the 20km senior women event, ended 68th in 1:39:09. She said the build-up to the race hadn’t been ideal.
’I flew out on Wednesday to start the 24 hours of travel, all the way to China. Arriving late Thursday afternoon we had about two days to get over our jetlag and be race ready.
‘Add some flu symptoms to that and you have yourself a recipe for a stressful day leading up to the race! But I went into the race with an open mind, not knowing what to expect or how my body would respond, but ultimately I’m satisfied with the end result. I got my season’s best, and was very close to dipping under 1:39.
‘There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I enjoyed every single bit of the race and representing SA! I’m extremely blessed with all the support back home and from all the teammates on this side. You guys rock!’
SA records subject to standard ratification processes