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Walker Shange strikes gold with Mexico win

Lebogang Shange proved in Mexico over the weekend that he’s very much a 2018 Commonwealth Games medal contender.

The Rio Olympian won the 20-kilometre race walk at the Memorial Jerzy Hausleber Meeting in Monterrey.

The High Performance Centre athlete won in 1hr 24min 32sec with Carlos Sanchez (Mexico) second in 1:24:59 and Mauricio Arteaga (Ecuador) third in 1:25:10.

An elated Shange described his victory afterwards as a ‘walk in the park’.

‘I can’t believe how easy it was to win. It was important to start my 2018 campaign with a bang as I wanted to prove that my fourth place during last year’s World Championships in London was no fluke.

‘I know I surprised a lot of people last year in London but they shouldn’t have been. I’m on top of my game just like the rest of the world’s best race walkers. What is nice is that I am starting to earn respect from my rivals.’

Shange went on to say that he’s adopted a fearless approach when it comes to racing. ‘I still feel a bit nervous before a race but it’s good as that gets my adrenaline pumping. Once the race starts, I truly believe I’m as good as any of the other walkers competing.’

Shange admits that winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games is a big priority for him. ‘I think there’s no bigger honour than winning a medal for your country. Thanks to my two brilliant coaches, Chris Britz (Tuks) and Sandor Racz, at the moment I’m in a perfect place.’

Racz represented Hungary at the 2016 Olympic Games.

The statistics certainly favour Shange as he eyes a medal at the Gold Coast games. At the end of last year his South African record time of 1:19:18 placed him 12th on the IAAF rankings. It was also the fastest time by a Commonwealth athlete.

It’s expected that the conditions during race day at the Gold Coast are going to be hot and humid. Britz reckons the hotter it is at the Commonwealth race the more it will suit the HPC athlete. ‘Lebogang is an athlete who relishes racing in hot conditions. That might count in his favour.’

Shange expressed something of a bitter-sweet emotion after his race and says he’s a bit saddened by the lack of recognition race walking gets in South Africa.

‘I’m busting myself internationally to make sure that the international racing community takes note that there are good race walkers in South Africa. And I’m winning the battle, but locally it feels as if my efforts are in vain.

‘The whole international Grand Prix concept is exciting for South African athletics, but I cannot understand as to why there has been made no provision for race walkers to compete. We would have been happy just to compete in a mile race to give us the opportunity to showcase our talents and create awareness for our sport.’