“I won’t lie. There can be no greater honour than winning a medal for my country at an Olympic Games or a World Championships,” said Shange on Thursday.
“For me that would definitely be the ultimate and, if I should manage to do it, South Africans would hopefully begin to look at race walking as a serious sport.”
Though Shange admits that winning a medal on Sunday will be a tall order, he will adopt an aggressive approach to the race.
“I am realistic about my abilities. Even if I do not win a medal, the other athletes will certainly know that they have raced against me. I will be racing with an attitude of no fear,” the Tuks/HPC athlete said.
“It is important to believe in your own abilities. The first time I competed in Europe I got the impression that the international athletes did not really respect the South African race walkers. We were seen as people who were just there to make up the numbers. This irked me somewhat, but it also served as an extra motivation for me to work harder. My goal this year is to take the racing to the international athletes. It was important to me that they should respect me and I think I have succeeded, even if it was only in a small way.”
Shange said it is important to stick to his own game plan.
“It is easy to get carried away in such a big race and I plan to walk at a pace with which I am comfortable for the first 12 or so kilometres. If I am still up front with the leaders at that stage, I will up my pace and go into race mode. Over the last five kilometres I will show no mercy and take no prisoners.”
According to Shange’s coach, Chris Britz, a top-ten finish is a realistic goal.
“Because there is so much at stake, the race tactics at a World Championships is normally quite different from that in other international races,” said Britz.
“This means that if Lebogang can keep his cool and is able to walk at a pace of 1 hour 21 minutes, he will be close to the leaders. On a good day he might be able to get a top-five finish or even contest for the bronze medal, but at this stage I will be happy with a top-ten finish.”