Cape Town – Lebogang Shange proved in Mexico over the weekend that he’s very much a 2018 Commonwealth Games medal contender.
According to the Team SA website, the Rio Olympian won the 20km race walk at the Memorial Jerzy Hausleber meeting in Monterrey.
Shange won in 1hr 24min 32sec with Carlos Sanchez (Mexico) second in 1:24:59 and Mauricio Arteaga (Ecuador) third in 1:25:10.
An elated Shange described his victory afterwards as a ‘walk in the park’.
“I can’t believe how easy it was to win. It was important to start my 2018 campaign with a bang as I wanted to prove that my fourth place during last year’s World Championships in London was no fluke,” he told Team SA.
“I know I surprised a lot of people last year in London but they shouldn’t have been. I’m on top of my game just like the rest of the world’s best race walkers. What is nice is that I am starting to earn respect from my rivals.”
Shange admits that winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games is a big priority for him.
“I think there’s no bigger honour than winning a medal for your country. Thanks to my two brilliant coaches, Chris Britz and Sandor Racz, at the moment I’m in a perfect place.”
The statistics certainly favour Shange as he eyes a medal at the Gold Coast games.
At the end of last year his South African record time of 1:19:18 placed him 12th on the IAAF rankings. It was also the fastest time by a Commonwealth athlete.
It’s expected that the conditions during race day at the Gold Coast are going to be hot and humid. Britz reckons the hotter it is at the Commonwealth race the more it will suit Shange.
Shange expressed something of a bitter-sweet emotion after his race and says he’s a bit saddened by the lack of recognition race walking gets in South Africa.
“I’m busting myself internationally to make sure that the international racing community takes note that there are good race walkers in South Africa. And I’m winning the battle, but locally it feels as if my efforts are in vain.”