Olga Kaniskina celebrates winning her third consecutive World Championships gold medal (Getty Images) © Copyright
Valeriy Borchin and Olga Kaniskina know all about breaking tapes. Indeed, it has been a while since the IAAF World and Olympic winners failed to do so.
Both were cagey about tactics needed to win the two 20km on offer, but certain the race for each was no halfway house to the Olympics in August.
Looking tanned and relaxed in their hometown, the pair insisted they had prepared specifically for this challenge and are plotting to claim a slice of the $350,000 prize money offer.
Borchin said: "A lot of things can happen in a race.
"Judges can play a part, and we have to be aware of that. I have been eight years in the sport, and I see all my competitors as potential challengers.
"I have not thought about the Olympics yet. This is one race, and I have prepared for it, and will prepare again for the next one."
One reason that could scupper an attempt on the men’s 20km mark set five years ago on the same Saransk streets by Russian Vladimir Kanyakin, also toeing the line, might be the heat.
It looks as if the mercury will touch 28 celsius for the men’s 50km where Jared Tallent is hoping his fifth major medal will turn to gold – rather than silver or bronze.
The Australian isn’t worried about the thermometre, but more about the Russian challenge. That and his mid-race stomach problems that stymied a bid for glory both at the IAAF World Championships in August and the last IAAF World Cup.
The former will pan out Sunday morning, the latter Tallent hopes he’s fixed with a little help from nutritionist Louise Burke at the AIS training centre in Canberra.
"We’ve worked on what’s best for me, both on fluid and carbs. About 60gms an hour," he revealed. "As for the heat, I raced in 38 degrees in Hobart earlier this year."
Eder Sanchez is a long way from home, but the Mexican admitted Russia will do fine as he bids to climb the podium in the 20km event.
Four years ago he was third in Cheboksary down the road with a PB 1:18:34
"Russia is a great nation for me," said Sanchez. "I feel really good about being here."
Just as delighted to be attending the Cup is the great Sergey Bubka.
And the press conference underlined the former Pole Vault giant is a big fan of walking.
A man used to seeing the World from six metres on the end of a stick reckoned the sport has its feet firmly on the ground by adapting to modern demands – and thoroughly deserved its place in the world of track and field despite past criticisms.
He said: "There is a bright future for race walking.
"Everyone can participate – and it is important to promote sport all over the world. I believe it will remain part of the Olympic set up and I also believe its future is safe."
The now IAAF vice president made sure he took the opportunity to puff out his chest on behalf of the hosts.
After all, Saransk’s place in walking is somewhat special, as Bubka pointed out.
"It’s the mecca of race walking, and there is no other such centre in the world," he added. "We have 62 countries here – 58 was the previous record. And all the golds in the last World Championships went to Mordovia."
Paul Warburton for the IAAF