For Lebogang Shange the urge to break South African athletics records, seems to be as irresistible as it is for a moth to resist a flickering candlelight. On Sunday, at Britain’s National Outdoor Championships in Bedford, Shange managed to improve the 20 000m South African track record, set by Stanley Valentine. His winning time of 1:23:20 was more than a minute faster than Valentine’s record time of 1:24:51 that was set way back in 1989.
The High Performance Centre athlete is slightly disappointed that he was not able to better the African record of 1:22:51 as well. However, this latest record breaking attempt of Shange means that he has wiped out 71 years of South African athletics record history so far this season. The other records that have fallen due to his fleet- footedness are the 20km race walk record of Chris Britz (1:22:21 – 1996) and Britz’s 3 000 metre track record (11:27.20 – 1989).
Shange’s SA record for the 20km race walk is 1:21:50 and for the 3 000 metres it is 11 minutes and 20.39 seconds. What is amazing about the HPC-athlete’s record breaking performances is that he had boldly predicted beforehand that he was going to do so. He said on 1 June that he was going to make Valentine’s record his and he proved himself to be a man of his word: ‘In spite of the weather conditions not being great, it was a great day for me in Bedford. It was quite windy but I realized that I had no control over the wind so I just focussed on the challenge I had set myself, which was to set a new SA 20 000m record. Going around the track 50 times was mentally challenging.’
Marc Mundell (Tuks/HPC) was third in 1:28:55. Tom Bosworth (Britain) finished second. Shange says: ‘This has been a wonderful three-week trip and I have proved to myself that I can win abroad and compete successfully against the best in the world. Now it is time to prepare for the World Championships in Beijing.’ Shange has just reason to feel satisfied.
On 6 June at the IAAF 20km Race Walk in La Coruna, Spain, he finished 11th, missing out by a mere second on equalling his own South African record. Another highlight for him was winning the IAAF Race Walk Challenge in Dudinska. He was the first South African athlete who was able to do so.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott