After returning from Saransk, Russia where he took top spot in the 2009 IAAF Race Walking Challenge standings, receiving a cheque from the IAAF for $30,000 for the achievement, Mexico’s Eder Sanchez explained how 2009 has been the best season of his life.
“This has been the best year of my career, and I hope there will be even better seasons to come. I am extremely happy to have been named the ‘best walker in the world’ this year, it is not something that everyone can claim and it gives me special joy to be able to re-establish Mexican walkers as among the best internationally,” explained Sanchez.
In Saransk, Sanchez established in a new national record 38:57 for the 10km distance which bettered the previous standard set by former Pan American 50km champion Cristian Berdeja in 2002 (39:03). It was the perfect cap to a year in which he became World bronze medallist at 20km in Berlin.
On 18 March 2005, Sanchez won the 10,000m Walk at the Regional Youth Olympics in Toluca, Mexico and the following day travelled to Tijuana to take part in his first international high calibre competition: the Grand Prix Caminata. He finished an excellent fifth overall and was the third Mexican to cross the finish which meant he would take part in his first senior IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. Sanchez would finish eighth in the Finnish capital and the second best Latin American behind World champion and Ecuadorian legend Jefferson Perez.
A year later he won the 20km silver at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena but in 2007, although he was the fourth best walker in the world at 20km he was not selected to compete at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. Nevertheless, he did take part in the Osaka IAAF World Championships where he finished an excellent fourth.
For a short-lived moment he was in bronze medal position when Spain’s Francisco Javier Fernandez – who had crossed the finish in second – was disqualified meaning he and Tunisia’s Hatem Goula would in turn step on the podium but the Spanish Federation lodged a protest which was accepted by the Jury of Appeal and Fernandez was reinstated.
In 2008, Sanchez took part in the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary, Russia where he won a superb third place in a 1:18:34 personal best; three months later he competed in his first Olympic Games where he was 15th.
Steady international improvement
“People have noticed that I have been climbing up the ladder of international race walking. I am now among those at the top and my aim is now to get even better and stay at the top. Now the world sees me as one of the favourites, they see Mexico as a potential winner; they say ‘here come the Mexicans’. Now my aim is to complete a whole Olympic cycle; I was able to compete at the Central American Games but not at the Pan American Games. For the next four years that will be my goal.”
This year, Sanchez stepped on the podium in all four of the Race Walking Challenge races which he competed in (first in Chihuahua, third in Wixi, bronze at the World Champs in Berlin and third in Saransk); in all four of his races he was given only one warning and it was only because of the swine flu virus that he could not compete in more Challenge races.
“In all my races this year, I finished in the top three and the judges have noticed my technique is good. Only in China I was given a yellow card, in Russia I finished with a clean board. The judges know that Mexicans have a good school and a good technique, and they appreciate us more,” commented Sanchez proudly.
“In Athletics we have great Mexican competitors and we will give a lot more as soon as the new generation gets going. I am excited because race walking is a discipline which is recognized and respected around the world. For instance in Russia they held a wonderful final banquet hosted by the President of Mordovia and he too recognized all the efforts we are making. Personally, he even told me he considers me a great rival for the Russians just as I consider them great competitors,” said the 23-year-old.
The next big competition for Sanchez will be the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Chihuahua, Mexico next May 2010.
“My target in Chihuahua will be to finish in the top 5 and if the podium is accessible I will go for it. It’s a tough course and even more so for foreign walkers but I can adapt well and I hope in a good result,” concluded the young man whose parents Victor Sanchez and Graciela Teran were both respectable walkers.
Katya Lopez for the IAAF