By Mark Etheridge
Lebogang Shange’s long walk to the Rio Olympics later this year continued at pace as he strode to a new national best Down Under on Thursday.
The Gauteng athlete is part of an international training camp (for a nutritional research study) at the Australian Institute of Sport headquarters in Canberra and he and 2012 Olympian Marc Mundell took part in a 10,000-metre track race.
Shange, the 2015 African Games 20-kilometre road champion (and SA record holder), took second spot in 39min 54.24sec. Ahead of him was Canadian Benjamin Thorne (world championships bronze in Beijing 20km), less than 10 seconds faster in 39:46.53. Another Canadian, Evan Dunfee, was third in 40.24.32. Mundell clocked 43:03.31 (an unofficial 43.03), also a fastest time for the man whose focus is more on the 50km distance.
The official SA 10,000m track walking record stands behind the name of Chris Britz who walked a 40:32.78 back in 1995 and although it was doubtful at first whether Shange’s faster time will be recognised officially as only hand times were taken on Thursday, IAAF rule 261 would seem to indicate that hand times would be acceptable for this event.
What that time certainly does show is that Shange is most definitely on track for better things in this all-important Olympic year.
‘Yes, I had a great walk today,’ Shange told Road to Rio 2016 from Canberra. ‘Conditions weren’t too warm, just a little windy. I led for the first kilometre in 4:10 but that pace was a bit quick so I pulled back a bit. Then at 3.5km I picked up and at 5km I was lying fourth.
‘Near the end I was finishing very strongly and in fact, Benjamin told me afterwards that if the race had been a lap further, I would have caught him as he was getting tired.’
‘It’s great to get a personal best time, my previous best was just over 41min. I still prefer the road but this was all part of the bigger plan!
‘I’ll now get back into training and I have one more race here before I come home, the Australian 20km championships on 21 February.
‘Then I get back to South Africa and plan for my next race in Mexico. My plan is still to “own” all the SA walk records from 3000m to 50km eventually.’
Shange is part of a large group of between 20-25 international walkers training together.
Does he get homesick? ‘No, no, no… I can’t afford to be soft. This is an Olympic year so I have to concentrate everything on getting to Rio and doing well!’
Pictured are Mundell, Shange and Thorne
– See more at: http://www.sascoc.co.za/2016/02/04/track-best-as-shange-notches-up-another-walking-milestone-down-under/#sthash.txlPQFhv.dpuf
By Mark Etheridge