It seems as if Lebogang Shange has become addicted to his ‘hobby’ of breaking South African athletics records. He makes no secret that, while competing in Europe during the next three weeks, his mission will be to improve two national records. When competing in the IAAF 20km Race Walk in La Coruna, Spain on Saturday (6 June), he hopes to improve the record he set earlier this season when he finished in 1 hour 21 minutes and 50 seconds in a 20km race walk event in Lugano, Switzerland.
The second record he has set his sights on is the 20 000m track record (1:24:51) which Stanley Valentine set in 1989. By now athletics fans are well aware that the Tuks/HPC athlete is not just shooting off his mouth when he talks about breaking records. He has already broken two records this season.
Apart from the SA 20km record already mentioned, he has also improved the national 3000m track record to 11 minutes and 20.39 seconds. Shange’s new-found confidence is a far cry from his earlier attitude. The Tuks/HPC athlete says: ‘Last year I still battled to believe in my own abilities. When I entered a race I would study the start list, check the times of my rivals and invariably come to the conclusion that most of the athletes were better than me. But that is not so anymore. My coach, Chris Britz, helped me to change that perception. That is why I am now able to go for records. My SA 20km record performance in Switzerland could well have been the turning point in my athletics career. I know now that I am capable of competing against the best. I am still realistic about my abilities. Although I won’t win on Saturday, the other athletes will certainly know that they have raced against me. I will be racing with an attitude of fearlessness.’
If he is able to keep to his race plan, Shange is confident of finishing among the top ten and improve his record as well. Shange says: ‘My aim is a time of 1 hour 20 minutes. If I can do that it will mean that I will be on track to walk a time of 1 hour 19 minutes at the World Championships in Beijing. This will mean that I will also be in with a chance to medal. At the World Championships it will all depend on who has the strongest mind-set.’ Shange will decide after Saturday’s race whether or not he will race in Lithuania (12 June).
He says: ‘If I manage to break the record, I just want to savour the moment and won’t race in Lithuania.’ Shange’s attempt to break the SA 2 0000m record is planned for 21 June at Britain’s National Outdoor Championships in Bedford. Shange says he hates to race on this track: ‘We are talking about 50 laps, which is mentally a much tougher challenge. My problem is that I tend to lose track of how many laps I have completed. My mind also tends to wander off and then I begin to think about other things, rather than focus on what I am supposed to be doing.’
Shange is undoubtedly having a good season. Apart from the two records already mentioned, he has also become the first South African to win the IAAF Race Walk Challenge in Dudinska.