The South African 20km race walking record-holder, Lebogang Shange, is starting his preparation for the Commonwealth Games in earnest on Thursday when he flies out to Portugal to train there for three weeks.
The HPC athlete is a firm believer that the only way for him to keep on improving is to train as often that it is possible with some of the best race walkers in the world.
It forces him out of his comfort zone.
He plans to only compete in Mexico before the Games.
Two years ago, he finished third in the race.
Judging by his performance last year at the World Championships in London Shange has got a realistic chance to medal at the Gold Coast.
He finished fourth in what indeed was one of the most heroic performances by a South African athlete.
In the IAAF race report it was written that Shange came like a train to move up from 20th at halfway and 23 seconds in arrears, and then went through the field like a dose of salt to take the lead.
He was still in the lead going into the last lap, but unfortunately, he ran out of steam over the final two kilometres.
His effort, however, was not in vain.
He clocked a time of 1:19:18 which was 48 seconds faster the South African record he set in 2016 in Adelaide.
Shange’s time in London placed him 12th on the IAAF-rankings for last year.
In 2016 he was ranked 24th.
The statistics certainly favours Shange to be a medal contender at the Games. He is, however, a too wily campaigner to let that get to him.
“I have learned the hard way that statistics and results amount to absolutely nothing when racing especially at major events. The Commonwealth Games race is not going to be a walk in the park. I think there are about eight of us that could medal.
“My only goal will be to try and improve my performance at the World Championships in London. If I can do so, I could be one of the top finishers.”
Shange admits that he might have erred during last year’s World Championships race.
“In hindsight, I perhaps should have slowed down once I have caught up with the race leaders and allow myself to recover a bit before attacking again. But because I have raced at a 3 minute 45 seconds pace per kilometre for quite some time I was scared that I would have started to cramp if I slowed down.
“When I caught up there was also still eight athletes in the lead group. That is the other reason why I did not slow down. I wanted to split up the group to enable myself a better chance to medal. If the same scenario arises during the Commonwealth Games, I might do things slightly differently.”
Another good result last year for Shange was finishing second over at the Around Taihu Multi-day International Race Walking-event in Wuxi, China.
On day two he set a new South African 10km record by finishing in 39:48.