South African race-walking supremo Lebogang Shange will be looking to finish his 2018 campaign on a high at the final leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge at the Around Taihu International Race Walking event in China over the weekend.
Shange made a strong start to the season when he became the first African athlete to win a race in the Mexican leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Monterrey in February.
Lying in eight places on the overall standings, Shange could secure a top-five ranking for the third consecutive year highlighting his class on the global stage.
“Results-wise 2018 has not been a good year for me. There had been some good performances but to be honest, I did not achieve any of the goals I set for myself,” Shange said.
“It is not due to a lack of trying. I was unfortunate to have some health issues which made an impact on my abilities. Luckily everything is sorted now.”
The Tuks-HPC athlete won the 20km race walk silver medal at the African Championships in Asaba in August to the gold from Marrakech 2014 and Durban 2016 bronze.
20km race walk medals from the African championships after adding the silver to the gold from Marrakech 2014 and Durban 2016 bronze.
Shange, who finished fourth at last year’s IAAF World Championships in London, has been battling with some health issues in the buildup to this year’s Commonwealth Games where he finished ninth, nearly four minutes behind Aussie winner Dane Bird-Smith.
In July he set a new African 3 000m race walk record at the London Diamond League meeting finishing second with a time of 10:47.08.
“This I can promise. I will be racing to win from Sunday on, but it is going to be tough,” Shange said.
“Because the 20km race has now got ‘IAAF gold status’ it has attracted some of the best walkers. The weather conditions in China can also be tricky. It can rain at any time, or it can be cold. Personally, I prefer it to be hot and humid. That is when I am at my best.”
Shange said he was hoping to post a qualifying time for the IAAF World Championships in Doha early in the year in the 2019 season.
“I hope to qualify early next year in Australia for the Championships. If I do so, it will mean that I mainly could just focus on ensuring that I will be at my best by the time I need to race,” Shange said.
“My Hungarian coach, Sandor Rácz, is quite big on leaving nothing to chance. We know I will have to race in extreme heat in Doha that is why I will be doing a lot of my training on a treadmill in a specially heated room to get my body to adapt.”