YWNWA – You Will Never Walk Alone!

Photo by Ben Thorne

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Race Walking is an athletics discipline that has been neglected in South Africa over the past years and requires much more recognition and support (financially) then it is currently receiving. Lebogang Shange has recently showed South Africa and Africa that the discipline of Race Walking is an event that we can dominate in future but there are measures that need to be put in place to allow for this. Race Walkers in South Africa require more opportunities to qualify for international sporting events and especially so locally. For this to happen Race Walking events need meet the IAAF criteria of having 3 international judges present at competitions so that athletes don’t have to go abroad to qualify. Development opportunities for young talented walkers, prestigious local competitions and financial support of the top athletes are but a few ways to make sure that race walking continues to grow in South Africa. We are all responsible to ensure the sport gets the exposure it requires so athletes may know that YWNWA!

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Marc Mundell writes below of fellow race walker Lebogang Shange’s and his accomplishments in London:

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Lebogang Shange walked his way into worldwide recognition at the recent IAAF World Championships in London. Competing in the men’s 20km walk on Sunday 13 August, he finished in 4th place in what is undoubtedly the best ever performance by a South African race walker since readmission. His time of 1:19:18 obliterated his own South African record by nearly a minute and narrowly missed the continental record of 1:19:05 set by Hatem Ghoula of Tunisia in 1997. It wasn’t all plain sailing, as Lebo, like many other SA athletes, was not selected in the preliminary team announced in July despite meeting both the ASA and the IAAF standards of 1:20:31 and 1:24:00 respectively, but rightfully and fortunately, he won his appeal.
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Under the watchful and vigilant eye of his coach Chris Britz (himself a former SA 20km record holder), Lebo set his sights on improving on his 11th place performance at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China. He returned to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra for a follow up to the nutrition study he had participated in in 2016, and again met the IAAF Qualifying time of 1:24:00 at the Australian National 20km Championships held in Adelaide, where he finished second in 1:21:00. Racing less than he did the previous year he had a wonderful build up phase, training with a group of international and Hungarian athletes. He broke the South African 5000m track record on 30 June in Budapest, where he walked 18:55. He then attended an altitude camp in Livigno, Italy before returning to Budapest for some final sharpening up prior to arriving in London on Thursday 10 August. Lebo was the most relaxed I had ever seen him before a championship and I was confident of him being a medal contender. Having chatted to several of his peers, I was confident that he would pose a serious threat if he stuck to his race strategy that was so effective in Beijing – allowing the leaders to go off fast and then gradually coming through the field, chasing them down one by one. Lebo was a maestro on race day, not getting caught up in the euphoria and excitement of the leading pack or the emotional energy of the crowds lining The Mall. With the leaders going through 5km in 19:54 and then 10km in 39:48, Lebo was a little way back from the main pack on both occasions sitting in 27th position through 5km in 20:01 and in 20th at the halfway mark in 40:13.

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He systematically worked his way through the field, recording the fastest 5km interval during the third quarter of 19:37, where he started the final quarter in 12th position in 59:50, some 17 seconds behind the leading pack. He always looked relaxed and in total control and made a significant move, taking the lead and leading the World Championships going into the bell lap. He finished the final quarter in 19:28, his fastest of the race to record negative splits, with the second 10km in 39:05.

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With the numerous fans cheering on the leading group, Eider Arevalo (Columbia) made a decisive move after the final turn breaking away to win in 1:18:53, ahead of Sergei Shirobokov in 1:18:55, representing ANA (neutral athletes) and the Brazilian Ciao Bonfin in 1:19:04. It was an enthralling race, with three of the top four finishers recording National Records!

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Well done Lebogang “Daywalker” Shange – you royally entertained us!

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To read more on Shange’s background and how he initially got involved in Race Walking follow this link below:

https://www.iaaf.org/news/feature/lebogang-shange-20km-race-walk

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Written by Marc Mundell

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Let’s support Race Walking and encourage growth in this prestigious sport!

#YWNWA #YouWillNeverWalkAlone