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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'We are going to surprise a lot of people' - Last World Champs dance for race walking great Snyman

South African walking great Wayne Snyman is aiming to close the final chapter of his decorated career in spectacular fashion. Snyman is one of 36 athletes selected by Athletics South Africa (ASA) to represent the country at the World Championships kick off tomorrow in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. The 38-year-old is expected to call time on his nearly two decade long race walking career straight after the games. But it is not the first time he has announced his intention to retire. After last year's World Championships in Oregon, US he made a similar decision but after reflection he decided to make a comeback.

" Yeah, I kinda retired last year after Oregon but I was still fit," he told #TheTopRunner. "Plus my rankings are still up there so I decided to give it a shot. It's not how I usually prepare, but the time off was good because I think to rest is always good. And with the long distances I think the older you get, the stronger you get. So I'm really in very good shape and I surprised myself with how fast I managed to get back into shape," said the Curro Hillcrest High School teacher who originally hails from Pretoria but is now based in KwaZulu-Natal.

7-time SA Champion Wayne Snyman in action at the 2019 Athletics World Championships in Doha. Snyman finished in 12th place (1:24:33) in last year's 20km walk event at the World Champs in Oregon. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

Better known for his accomplishments over the 20km distance where finished in seventh place at last year's World Race Walking Cup in Oman and took the silver medal at the 2022 African Championships in Mauritius, Snyman will tackle the 35km walk this time around. And his shape leads him to believe that he can improve on the 2:31:15 African Record that he set in Eugene last year.

"I think my PB (20km walk) was in the Czech Republic, so it's in that line of countries. I know this course very well. We compete there most of the time for race walking in February, March, April when it's a bit cooler. But I don't mind heat. I live in Durban now and it's never cold there. I'm looking forward to what's going to happen. This is the last 35km ever and I'm the record holder, so I wanted to see what I can still do. I'm looking forward to it."

Snyman poses with fellow Team SA walkers at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships which took place in Muscat, Oman on 5 March 2022. Photo Credit: Nthatisi Mokhele.

Aside from expectations of his own performance, Snyman is also positive about the team as a whole. Although Team South Africa failed to win any medals at Oregon 2022 and Doha 2019, the All-Africa Games bronze medalist and multiple SA Champion believe that things will be different in Budapest.

"I think we are in a very good place and we are going to surprise a lot of people. We have got Marione Fourie who has been massive this year. Plus Taylon (Bieldt) and Zeney (Van Der Walt) too. I think it is always interesting to see girls coming back into athletics. Oh, Wayde (van Niekerk ) is back and the young man Adriaan (Wildtschutz) is doing well. I think we got some big names and it is good to see the team grow compared to a couple of years back when we came with zero medals. So I think we are going to surprise our country this year."

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