Sandra Arenas and Eider Arevalo produced a double win for Colombia in the 20km, while Jose Leyver secured a home win in the northern Mexican city of Chihuahua on Saturday (22) during the third leg of the 2014 IAAF Race Walking Challenge.
Twenty-year-old Arenas achieved her most important international victory in her career so far ahead of more decorated Portuguese women, including Ana Cabecinha and three-time former Chihuahua winner Ines Henriques.
Henriques, second overall in the 2013 challenge, took an early 10-second lead, but was soon joined by Cabecinha, Arenas and Mexican Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez. They hit the 15km mark together in 1:10:34.
In the final two laps, the lead shrank to Arenas and Cabecinha. The former edged the more experienced Cabecinha on the final lap to cross the finish line in 1:33:24, almost one minute off her personal best set at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
Cabecinha settled for silver as she did in 2013, five seconds behind, followed by 2013 Central American and Caribbean champion Gonzalez, who kept a Mexican presence on the podium after Monica Equihua, third in 2012 and 2013, missed the event due to injury.
Henriques finished fourth this time after a 1:34:02 effort.
“I am very satisfied with the win, especially as I am starting to become familiar with the 20km and considering that this is the first Challenge event I have ever raced,” said Arenas, bronze medallist at the 2012 World Junior Championships.
Arevalo follows in Arenas’ footsteps
A few hours later, 20-year-old Eider Arevalo completed the Colombian sweep in the 20km after a close battle with local Omar Segura in the final three kilometres.
Segura led a large 25-man pack through the first kilometres. The group was reduced to 15 with Diego Flores setting the pace in front at the 10km mark (42:10).
With two thirds of the race completed in almost 63 minutes, the pack was down to six men, led by Canadian Evan Dunfee and Italian Giorgio Rubino.
After the 17km mark, Arevalo and Segura made their move and it all came down to the final meters, when the young Colombian turned on an extra gear to win in 1:23:07 and Segura could not respond and finished six seconds later.
Mexico’s Jesus Tadeo Vega earned his first challenge podium in 1:23:20, closely followed by Rubino (1:23:24) and Dunfee (1:23:31), who was rewarded with a personal best.
“This is a great boost to do even better at the World Cup. I already had the qualifying time from last year, but this gives me a lot of confidence,” said Arevalo, who added this victory to his 2013 challenge win in Podebrady, where he set a national record of 1:19:45.
Australia’s five-time world and Olympic medallist and 2013 challenge winner Jared Tallent finished seventh in 1:24:11, behind 2013 Chihuahua winner Isaac-Antonio Palma (1:24:02).
Three other prominent names were relegated to minor positions: Colombia’s 2011 world bronze medallist Luis-Fernando Lopez (1:26:07), Norway’s Erik Tisse (1:26:20) and Mexico’s 2009 world bronze medallist and four-time Chihuahua winner Eder Sanchez (1:29:05) in 12th, 13th and 18th, respectively.
Leyver lands popular win in 50km
In the first and longest event contested on Saturday, Jose Leyver brought back the 50km honours to the host nation and relived his victory from 2011.
A group of eight, including all the top contenders, led through the first 20km and Leyver took the pack to the half-way mark in 1:56. Local hero and 2010 World Cup runner-up Horacio Nava moved to the front and at 35km the lead was reduced to five men: Leyver, Nava, Omar Zepeda, Luis Amauri Bustamante and Poland’s Grzegorz Sudoł.
With 10km to go, Zepeda and Leyver upped the pace and eventually dropped the other three co-leaders. On the 25th and final lap, Leyver made his decisive move to claim gold in 3:50:42, the second-fastest time ever produced on the Chihuahua course.
Zepeda, the only man to dip below 3:50 in Chihuahua and a three-time 50km winner of the Mexican leg of the challenge, finished second in 3:51:06. Both secured a spot on the Mexican team for the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Taicang, China, on 3-4 May.
“Considering the conditions, I believe we achieved a good time. This is a good course and despite the hot weather, we produced a good result. Our next goal is China, where I hope to go under 3:45,” said 28-year old Leyver, silver medallist at the 2011 Pan American Games and Olympian in 2012.
Poland’s Sudoł (3:52:52) completed the trio on the podium, ahead of Nava (3:53:51), who was looking for his first victory over 50km in his hometown. Bustamante rounded off the top five in 3:54:00, more than five minutes faster than his previous best.
Mexico’s Ricardo Ortiz (42:34) and Guadalupe Sanchez (48:47) took the top honours in the junior 10km races.
Races were held on a two-kilometre loop course at the Ciudad Deportiva Sur de Chihuahua, the same course used for the 2010 World Cup. The city is located 1434m above sea level.
Host of the Mexican stop of the challenge since 2008, including the World Cup in 2010, Chihuahua is the third stop of a 12-leg series that will travel to Asia, Africa Europe and Oceania over the next six months.
The next stop will be the Memorial Mario Albisetti in Lugano, Switzerland, on 16 March.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF