Lebogang Shange again kept his word. At the IAAF World Championships in Beijing (23/08) he broke the South African 20km race walk record for a second time this season. Shange finished 11th in a time 1 hour 21 minutes and 43 seconds, 0.07 seconds faster than his previous record.
It was the fifth time this season that the Tuks/HPC athlete managed to break a South African record but what is even more encouraging is that, for the first time ever, South Africa has a race walker who is able to take on the world’s best. Shange’s record time is just 2 minutes and 9 seconds slower than that of Spain’s Miguel Lopez who won in 1:19.14. China’s Zhen Wang was second in 1:19:29 and Canada’s Benjamin Thorpe third in 1:19:57.
After the race the South African had mixed feelings, saying: ‘I won’t lie. I really wanted to finish in the top ten, but the heat was too much for me. It was extremely hot. I did not pass one water point without pouring water over me. After 8 kilometres I dropped off the lead group and slowed down slightly because I did not want to risk not finishing. It would have been a major shame to me if I did not finish. I was never far off the pace. I could see the race leaders all the time and that kept me motivated. Over the last kilometre I felt good, so I “let fly”. As I have said, I would have loved to have finished in the top ten, but I went into the race with a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C and ended up executing Plan B. Still, every time I break a record is special.’
Shange was not the only South African who impressed on the second day of the Championships. Carina Horn (Tuks) just missed out on improving the South African record of 11.06s. She finished third in her heat in a time of 11.08s. The Olympic and current world champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) won in 10.88s. Horn’s time was the eighth fastest in the heats.
Wenda Nel was also in awesome form and set the second fastest time in the heats. Her time of 54.45s is just 0.08 seconds slower than her best time of 54.37s which she ran earlier this season, also in Beijing. Cassandra Tate (US) was the fastest in the heats with a time of 54.27s. Nel admits that she surprised herself: ‘I did not expect to run such a fast time, but I am not complaining. I am really satisfied. Luckily LJ Van Zyl warned me yesterday that the track is very fast, so I was mentally prepared for it. With the track being so fast I had to quickly change the rhythm of my stride without planning to do so. I know I should not get carried away, but I am looking forward to tomorrow’s semi-finals. I think I can qualify for the final, but I fully realise that running the 400-hurdles can be very unpredictable.’
Wayde Van Niekerk (Kovsies) won his 400m race in 44.42s. This was the fourth-fastest time in the heats and proved that he is a definite medal contender.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott