Eder Sanchez of Mexico defended his victory from last year in the men's 20km race at the "Na Rynek marsz z TNT" competition in Krakow on Saturday (24), the sixth leg of the 2008 IAAF Race Walking Challenge, leaving the winner of the World Cup, Francisco Javier Fernandez behind with 500m to the finish line.
Sanchez won in 1:19:34, 13 seconds ahead of Fernandez, with Juan-Manuel Molina another 30 seconds behind.
Also in the women's 20km race last year winner didn’t change. European champion Ryta Turava of Belarus took the lead early in the race and was never challenged, taking her first win in this year's series in 1:28:33, 2 minutes and 3 seconds ahead of her nearest rival, Susana Feitor of Portugal, with Claudia Stef of Romania taking third place.
For the second time in the 11 year history of the competition the race was contested over a distance of 20km. The lap was 1350m long, mostly around Krakow’s Market Square, one of the most beautiful in Europe. The day was cloudy, 15 degrees Celsius, but fortunately without showers.
Women's 20 km
Reigning European Champion Turava struggled with an injury which caused her to skip last year's World Championships in Osaka. She began her 2008 season by not finishing the World Cup in Cheboksary. In Krakow she was unbeatable.
After half of the distance she had a 13-second lead in front of Portugal’s Feitor and afterwards the distance grew (15km – 1:09 and on the finish line it was 2:03). Turava ended the competition with a very good result of 1:28:33, the only walker to go below 1:30. Basing on Turava's 5km paces (22:48 – 21.59 – 22:16 – 21:30) her form is high and she is able to go much faster than in Krakow. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Turava won for the third time in Krakow (previously in 2005 & 2007), but this year’s victory was the easiest. The only athlete who could keep up with Turava was Feitor (2002 Krakow winner) however up to the 15th kilometre there was a possibility that Romanian Stef will also be trying to fight for second place. On the finish line Stef was 19 seconds behind Feitor.
A very good finish by Greek Athanasía Tsoumeléka (reigning Olympic Champion) let her finish 4th despite the fact that after 5km she was more than half a minute behind the leader. Vera Santos from Portugal after proving top form during the World Cup, where she finished third had to settle for fifth. The only disqualified athlete of the event was Belarussian Elena Ginko, third after half of the distance.
The leader of the IAAF World Challenge Kjersti Plätzer did not compete, but she is still the first in the Challenge with three victories (30 points). Second is Tsoumeléka (20 pts) while Santos moved to third with 19 points.
Men's 20 km
Sanchez from Mexico is becoming a bigger and bigger star of the walking events. Last year he unexpectedly became the winner of the Krakow meeting and this year being one of the favourites he did not disappoint.
After 5km there were 10 athletes in the lead who walked this distance in 20:29. After next laps they accelerated and the next 5km walked in 19:57. Just before the half-way point one of the leading athletes - reigning Olympic Champion Italian Ivano Brugnetti withdrew. On the 11th kilometer the winner of the World Cup in Cheboksary Francisco Javier Fernandez and Eder Sanchez attacked and went six seconds faster than the previous laps. Behind their backs up to the 14th kilometre was Molina from Spain, Russian Ilya Markov and Irishman Robert Heffernan.
In this situation the two leaders accelerated again and their lead grew. Sanchez and Fernandez began the last lap together and with 500 metres to go the nine year younger Mexican left the three-time winner of the Krakow competition Fernandez. Sanchez bettered his own course record by 1:02, reaching the finish in 1:19:34. Fernandez was behind by 13 seconds. Third to the finish line was Molina (for whom it was the sixth 20km start this season) who finished in 1:20:18 (also better than last year’s record time). Three seconds behind was Russian Markov (who lives in Poland) in 1:20.31 with Heffernan next (1:20:34).
In the leader's board of the IAAF Walking Challenge, Sanchez took advantage of Norwegian Erik Tysse’s absence and moved to the top with a 7 point advantage (he also won in Chihuahua and was third in Beijing and during World Cup in Cheboksary). Sanchez has 38 points, Tysse 31, while Molina moved to third with 29. Despite competing only two times Fernandez is fourth in the Challenge with 23 points.
The 2008 IAAF World Race Walking Challenge continues with two more competitions, both in Spain: Gran Premio Cantones de La Coruña and the series final in Murcia, on 21 September
Janusz Rozum for the IAAF
1. Eder Sanchez MEX 1:19:34
2. Francisco Javier Fernandez ESP 1:19:48
3. Juan-Manuel Molina ESP 1:20:18
4. Ilya Markov RUS 1:20:31
5. Robert Heffernan IRL 1:20:34
6. Joao Vieira POR 1:21:25
7. Siarhei Charnou BLR 1:21:43
8. Matej Toth SVK 1:21:49
9. Andres Chocho-Leon ECU 1:22:05
10. Rafal Augustyn POL 1:23:04
1. Ryta Turava BLR 1:28:33
2. Susana Feitor POR 1:30:36
3. Claudia Stef ROU 1:30:55
4. Athanasia Tsoumeleka GRE 1:31:04
5. Vera Santos POR 1:32:53
6. Jane Saville AUS 1:32:59
7. Johana Ordonez ECU 1:34:30
8. Maria Galikova SVK 1:37:01
9. Miriam Ramon ECU 1:38:16
10. Monica Svensson 78 SWE 1:38:19