Marc Mundell (Tuks/HPC) could rightfully be described as South Africa’s ‘invisible’ athlete. Most local sports fans have no idea who he is or in what event he excels. This is in spite of the fact that, in 2012, he was the first South African race walker in 52 years who was able to qualify for an Olympic Games.
He has also consistently improved the national 50km race walking record since 2009. The last time he did so was in December 2015 when he clocked a time of 3:54:12 in Melbourne. This performance was also good enough for him to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.
His strive to perfection made him decide to quit his job so that he could just focus on being at his best in Rio. Mundell’s exploits can best be described with the word ‘dedication’. In spite of having received hardly any recognition, he is still as passionate about race walking as the day he took his first step in the sport.
On Sunday Mundell, Lebogang Shange (Tuks/HPC) and Wayne Snyman will be competing in Adelaide in the Australian 20km Race Walking Championships. Mundell sees his race as preparation for when he will compete in a 50km race on 20 March in Dudince. However, being naturally competitive, he will certainly not just be out for a stroll on Sunday.
Mundell says: ‘If the weather plays along I hope to improve my personal best time of 1:06:19. It will be great if I can break 85 minutes. But the forecast is that the temperature will rise to about 36 degrees on Sunday which means that I am bound to suffer during the race. However, for me it is not merely about time. If I am able to walk a well-controlled race it will be a tremendous confidence boost for me.’ Mundell predicts that, if nothing goes wrong, Shange should again improve on the South African 20km record (1:21:43). Snyman will have a good chance of qualifying for the Olympic Games.
Taking into account that Mundell will be 33 in July, it is amazing that he is still prepared to put in the long hard hours and many sacrifices. Surely he would be better off focusing on a career. But that is not the Tuks/HPC athlete’s way of thinking.
He says: ‘I have invested so much time and money in my race walking career. I have also sacrificed jobs and holidays to pursue my dreams. My wife, Joanna, and I have decided that I should resign my job and be a full-time athlete until after the Olympic Games. At first my goal was just to get to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Then, with knee problems and the surgery that followed, my revised aim was to get the maximum out of the body God has given me for a while longer and to see if I can again qualify for the Olympics. What also still keeps me going is my love for the camaraderie of sport and the domestic and international interaction and friendship. I should also mention that, after having competed in London, I sincerely hoped that it would not take another 52 years for a South African walker to compete at the Olympic Games. This dream has come true, because both Lebogang and I have already qualified and there is a good chance that Wayne will also qualify. This means that I will retire happily after Rio, knowing that in some small way I have left the sport in a better position than I had originally found it. I guess after Rio it will be time to find something else to intrigue me and keep me occupied.’
Photo credit: Marc Mundell