Trond Nymark returned to winning ways in Mexico, four years after his first victory in this country, to complete a successful weekend for Norway in the opening leg of 2009 IAAF Race Walking Challenge in this northern Mexican city.
The two-time World Cup medallist overtook defending champion and local favourite Jesús Sánchez with less than six kilometres to go to take the men's 50km in 3:51:06 hours, a minute and a half faster than the 2008 winning time.
The 32-year old followed his compatriot Kjersti Plätzer, who dominated the women’s 20km on Saturday (14), and joined her and Mexican Eder Sanchez, the men’s 20km winner, as the first leaders of the 2009 Challenge.
Jesús Sánchez (3:53:17) and Omar Zepeda (3:55:45) flanked the European on the podium and joined Olympic sixth place finisher Horacio Nava as the Mexican trio for the World Championships in Berlin.
Surge in final 5km secures victory for Nymark
Twenty-six men from seven countries were flagged off at 8:00am on the flat 2km Pancho Villa course. Sánchez set the early tempo and Nymark was only companion after the 5km mark.
The duo shared the lead until the 25km mark, when Sanchez moved ahead and built up a five-second lead, which he increased to 19 seconds at the 35km mark.
However, his cushion began to shrink, as he could not sustain a fast pace. The Norwegian caught up with him with six kilometres to go and sealed the victory with 24:46 minutes in the final 5km, to the Mexican’s 26:32.
“The first 25km were easy and the second half became harder and I increased the tempo and the pressure. I took advantage of a good weather. I realized the Mexican was slowing his pace and then overtook him at the right time,” said Nymark after hugging his coach.
“From the very beginning, I told myself I could win this race. I kept that mentality until I the end. I always remained positive, aiming for the win,” he added.
Nymark holds the fastest 50km on Mexican soil in the seven-year history of the Challenge, when he completed the distance in 3:46:05 hours in Tijuana 2005.
“I got excited and did to respect my pace. It took its toll on me. I changed the strategy and it did not work. I realized I was slowing the pace. The Norwegian caught up with me and eventually won,” Sanchez explained.
Nevertheless, the 2008 Olympian was satisfied to secure a slot in the Mexican squad for his second World Championships.
Omar Zepeda finished a comfortable third to qualify for his fourth World Championships, including his third consecutive in the 50km.
Edgar Hernández, the 2001 World Championships bronze medallist, 1997 world 20km champion Daniel García and two-time Olympian Mario Iván Flores finished fourth to sixth to make up the Mexican trio for the Pan American Race Walking Cup, to be held in San Salvador, 25-26 April.
Spain’s 1993 World champion and 2008 Olympic fourth place finisher Jesus Angel Garcia dropped out after the 39km. Other casualties were Poland’s Grzegorz Sudol, ninth in the 2008 Olympics, and Belarus’ Andrey Stepanchuk.
Adrián Ochoa and his sister Adriana Ochoa took the junior 10km with respective times of 42:16 and 49:58 minutes.
Chihuahua, located 1,400m above sea level, hosted a weekend encounter of present and past race walking stars. Ecuador’s Jefferson Perez, Italy’s Maurizo Damilano and Mexico’s first Olympic champion Daniel Bautista and 1984 Olympic champion Raul Gonzalez were among the distinguished guests. Others were Spain’s José Marín and Jordi Llopart, and Jerzy Hausleber, considered as the father of race walking in Mexico.
Preparing for the Cup
Under the guidance of Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, the 1997 World Championships 50km bronze medallist and current director of the Chihuahua Institute of Sports, the capital of the largest Mexican state will now prepare to host the Race Walking World Cup in May 2010, the first one in the country since 1993.
The 2009 IAAF Race Walking Challenge will now cross the Atlantic as the second leg is scheduled in Rio Maior, Portugal, on 4 April.
The 10-event Series will conclude in Saransk, Russia, on 19 September.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
1. Trond Nymark Norway 3:51:06
2. Jesús Sánchez Mexico 3:53:17
3. Omar Zepeda Mexico 3:55:45
4. Edgar Hernández Mexico 3:55:45
5. Daniel García Mexico 4:05:45
6. Mario Iván Flores Mexico 4:08:47
7. Cristián Berdeja Mexico 4:09:16
8. Álvaro Nava Mexico 4:13:54
9. Luis Bustamante Mexico 4:18:22
10. José Sánchez Mexico 4:19:18
Juniors 10km (All Mexicans)
1. Adrián Ochoa 42:16
2. Ever Palma 42:42
3. Isaac Palma 43:32
1. Adriana Ochoa 49:58
2. Angélica Arrieta 50:30
3. Erandi Uribe 50:51
For more information, please go to http://www.walkingchihuahua.com/