Race walking is the only athletics event in South Africa in which an athlete cannot qualify for the Olympic Games by competing in a local race. When Marc Mundell mentioned this fact during an interview it was hard to believe that it could be true. The Tuks/HPC athlete becomes quite excited when he starts talking about the frustration this causes for local race walkers.
He says: ‘The IAAF requirement for athletes who want to qualify for a World Championships or the Olympic Games is that the race has to be attended by at least three international judges. Since I have become a senior athlete way back in about 2002, there has been only one race in South Africa that was attended by three international judges.’ The race Mundell referred to was the 2011 African 50km Championships in Cape Town. According to Mundell, apart from this one exception, no South African athlete has been able to qualify for the Olympics by competing in a local race.
To prove his point Mundell told the story of what happened to Wayne Snyman at last year’s South African Championships in Stellenbosch. Snyman finished second in 1 hour 23 minutes and 45 seconds. Because his time was faster than the qualification standard set by the IAAF, he ought to have qualified for the World Championships in Beijing.
However, Snyman was not allowed to compete in Beijing because the South African national championship was not attended by three international judges. His effort had therefore been in vain. The Tuks/HPC athlete says: ‘This is the sad reality of race walking in South Africa. In my opinion it serves no purpose for any South African race walker to compete at a national championship, even though it is South Africa’s most prestigious athletics event. To compete at the national championship is to waste a good performance, because the times don’t count for anything. Hopefully people will now understand why there will never be any really fast times in race walking at the South African Championship. I personally would rather save myself for a race where my performance actually means something. The only option left for South Africa’s top race walkers who want to represent their country is to pay their own way to go overseas where they can compete internationally. Lebogang Shange, Wayne Snyman (both 20km race walk) and I qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio by competing in Australia.’
On Saturday, most of South Africa’s race walkers, i.e. Anel Oosthuizen, Corli Swart, Zelda Schultz, Mthembi Chauque, Snyman and Mundell will be competing in Dudince, Slovakia. Mundell predicts that one of South Africa’s female race walkers will probably qualify for the Games in Rio. He will be the only one who will be competing in the 50km race.
He says: ‘I have my own personal goals for the race. If I am able to have a good tactical and physical race in which I manage to tick all the right boxes, I will be happy with whatever the outcome.’ Since 2009 Mundell has improved the African 50km race walking record on four occasions and the South African record on five occasions. In 2012 he also became the first South African race walker since 1960 to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games.