Preview

A Portuguese selection battle set to highlight in Rio Maior - PREVIEW

Inês Henriques on the way to her 2011 victory in Chihuahua (Chihuahua organisers)Inês Henriques on the way to her 2011 victory in Chihuahua (Chihuahua organisers) © Copyright

Lisbon, PortugalSome of the world’s best race walkers will visit again Rio Maior, in Portugal, next Saturday (14, for the 21st edition of the Grande Prémio Internacional de Rio Maior em Marcha Atlética, which is part of the annual IAAF Race Walking Challenge.


Susana Feitor, the most well-known Portuguese race walker is one of the four Portuguese aces of this athletics discipline present in this year’s edition. Feitor, the 2005 IAAF World Championship bronze medallist, already has eight winning trophies from Rio Maior (six of them in the former distance of 10km), with her last victory coming in 2001. Since that period of dominance, only once has another Portuguese achieved the first place, Vera Santos, in 2010.


Feitor (20km PB: 1:27:55), who was fourth last year in Rio Maior, has prepared very well for the 2012 season with her main goal of making her sixth appearance in the Olympic Games in mind; she first competed in 1992 Barcelona. She has the Portuguese ‘A’ qualification standard for London, but so have the other three top Portuguese women who she'll race against in Rio Maior.


Inês Henriques (PB: 1:29:36) 2012 and 2011 Chihuahua winner, 7th in 2007 IAAF World Championship and fifth last year in Rio Maior, Vera Santos (PB: 1:28:14) Rio Maior winner in 2010 and 5th in 2009 IAAF World Championships, and Ana Cabecinha (PB: 1:27:46) the Portuguese record holder and 2012 national champion, along with Feitor made up the Portuguese team who took the team title at the 2010 IAAF World Race Walking Cup.


However, with a maximum of three Olympic places available per country in any discipline, one of these women will stay home. In the process of deciding who the unlucky person will be Rio Maior acts as the first round for selection and this year's IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Saransk will be the second.


From abroad the best race walkers taking part on Saturday are Spanish Beatriz Pascual (PB: 1:27:44), 6th in 2008 Olympic Games and 2nd in 2011 in Rio Maior, Júlia Tacaks (PB: 1:30:14) the Shenzen Universiade gold medallist, Latvias Sonata Milusauskaite (PB: 1:30:26), Ireland’s Olive Loughnane (PB: 1:27:45) the 2009 IAAF World Championship silver medallist, and Germany’s Sabine Krantz (PB: 1:27:56).


Ten under 1:21


There will be considerably less local emotion concerned with the men’s 20 km. Three winners from two meetings of the 2012 IAAF World Race Walking Challenge have confirmed their presence in Rio Maior: Mexicans Eder Sanchez (PB: 1:18:34), the victor in the 2012 Chihuahua 20km, and Omar Zepeda (PB: 1:21:59), the winner of 2012 Chihuahua 50km, and Slovakian Matej Toth (PB: 1:20:16), winner of 20 km in Dudince (2012) will lead the field on Saturday.


Those three will be joined by Portuguese hero João Vieira (PB: 1:20:09), the 2010 European 20km bronze medallist, who recently produced a 50km Portuguese record (3:45:17). He will be in his home town, with the support of the public and has the ability to achieve a major goal.


Other competitors to pay attention of are Irishman Robert Heffernan (PB: 1:20:54), 6th in Lugano, and Mexicans Ever Palma (PB: 1:21:02) and Omar Segura (PB: 1:20:25), Ecuadorian Andrés Chocho (PB: 1:20.24), Chilean Yerko Araya (PB: 1:20:48); and Sérgio Vieira (PB: 1:20:58), who is the twin brother of João Vieira.


António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF