Sanele Shange becomes first black South Africa to qualify for the Ironman World Champs

Sanele Shange becomes first black South Africa to qualify for the Ironman World Champs

Durban born 29-year-old athlete, Sanele Shange, becomes the first black South African to podium at the IRONMAN African Championship, qualifying for the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’í. 

Sanele Shange
Chris Hitchcock/IRONMAN

Shange put in an impressive performance in this year’s IRONMAN African Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay, finishing in a time of 08:41:12.

Shange was the first South African to cross the line in his 25 – 29 age-group category, coming second only to French age-group athlete, Antoine Bezault, who only finished three minutes and sixteen seconds faster than him.

After being helped by his local community to pay for his entry fee, transport him to Nelson Mandela Bay for the event, equip him with training and racing gear, Shange attempted his first full distance IRONMAN event and made everyone proud by making history.

It was a dream come true for Shange, “Qualifying for Kona [IRONMAN World Championship] means so much to me. Since I started the sport, this has been my goal. I want to race alongside one of my idols who is Jan Frodeno, a legend in the sport. This has always been my dream. I am grateful to everyone who helped me get to this point.”

Asked about where the passion for triathlons began, he responds, “Five years ago, I was running for one of the local running clubs (Savages) and they had some members who were also into the triathlon scene. I was always interested in swimming, so this naturally perked my interest. So, I chatted to them about getting into the sport.

"I knew I could swim, just had to work on the bike and I was extremely confident in my running abilities. From there, I was fortunate enough to have members of the local community who were willing to lend me the gear that I needed for training and racing.

"After doing my first triathlon race, I qualified for the South African Triathlon Championship, and there I qualified for the World Triathlon Championship, but I did not have the funds to go and participate. I tried to raise the funds but I unfortunately couldn’t raise the funds needed to travel.”

The 2021 IRONMAN African Championship was held in brutal conditions as Gqeberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth) lived up to its name, The Windy City. The 3.8km swim course had to be shortened due to strong currents and choppy sea conditions, being reduced to 700 metres. The 180km bike course and 42.2km run course remained the same.

"I was used to the rough sea conditions, training in Durban helped prepare me for this so I wasn’t too bothered. I have had a lot of experience swimming in rough sea conditions. The bike was windy, but I had put in a lot of mileage with my coach on the saddle, so this helped in preparing my legs for those windy conditions. And the run, well this is what I live for, I love running so I enjoyed it,” explained Shange.

After an impressive performance, now Shange looks on to the sports pinnacle event, the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’í scheduled to take place on 6 – 8 October 2022. He will represent South Africa and race against the world’s best long-distance triathletes.


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