LONDON – Gutsy race walker Lebogang Shange turned in one of the best performances of the IAAF World Championships, finishing fourth in the 20km Walk in London.
He shattered his national record, becoming the first South African to dip below one hour and 20 minutes as he crossed the finish in a time of 1:19.18.
The 27-year-old broke his previous record by nearly a minute, launching an extraordinary attack from 20th place and 30 seconds behind the lead group at the halfway point to come within a whisker of a medal.
Racing to the backdrop of the Buckingham Palace and Admirality Arch on a two-kilometre lap around The Mall, Shange moved up the field over the next half.
“I wanted to do my first 10km in 40 minutes 30 seconds, but I was still fresh and I did it in 40 minutes flat, and I thought I could beat my African record,” Shange said.
“I kept patient, and after 12km I thought I could do it, I can get to the front. I just need to believe.”
Shange started reeling in the chasing group where he moved into 12th with three-quarters of the race behind him.
With three kilometres to go, Shange had caught up with the three leading men before moving to the front.
At the bell, he was embroiled in a close tussle with Eider Arevalo of Colombia and Sergei Shirobokov, who was competing under a neutral banner.
The South African started slipping off with a kilometre to go, and held on for a creditable fourth-place finish, just 14 seconds off a podium spot.
Arevalo took the spoils in a new national record of 1:18.53, with Shirobokov taking second place in 1:18.55, while Caio Bonfim of Brazil bagged the bronze with a time of 1:19.04.
“I feel great, I am not surprised by my position because I worked so hard for it, and the sacrifices that I have made,” Shange said.
“I spent three months in Europe. I sacrificed my Christmas going to Australia for a training camp.”