The second leg of the 2006 IAAF Race Walking Challenge takes place this Saturday (1 April) in Rio Maior, the “capital” of race walking in Portugal, a city with great conditions for most sporting events, near Lisbon which is some 80km away.
After a great event in 2005, the 15th edition of “Rio Maior Race Walking Grand Prix “may be even better, with a strong field of competitors, including five world medallists”, say Jorge Miguel, director of the event and also coach of Susana Feitor and Joao Vieira, the Portuguese 20km race walking record holders.
Susana Feitor returns to competition
The 2005 Helsinki World Championship bronze medallist Susana Feitor, second in the IAAF World Race Walking Challenge 2005, will return to the competition after injury and a training period in high-altitude (Flagstaf, California, USA), in a race which she has won eight times between 1993 and 2001. The Portuguese record holder (1:27:55) will face the 2005 Helsinki World Championship silver medallist and winner of IAAF Race Walking Challenge in 2005, the Belarussian Margaryta Turava (1:27:05), who have won Rio Maior last edition.
In the women’s event the field includes other great athletes, such as the Australian Jane Saville (1:27:44), the Commonwealth Games champion, who is focussed on the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in La Coruña, Spain (13-14 March) and the Romanian Claudia Stef (1:27:41) winner in Tlalneplanta, México, last weekend.
Italian Elisa Rigaudo (1:27:49), the winner of IAAF Race Walking Challenge in 2004, is looking forward to repeating her of 2004, while Cristina Lopez of El Salvador (1:30:08) want’s to improve is personal best.
Also in the race are Norica Cimpean, Romania (1:27:26), the german’s Melanie Seeger (1:29:17) and Sabine Zimmer (1:27:56), the lituanian Sonata Milusauskaite (1:30:53) and Spaniards Eva Pérez (1:31:01) and Rocio Florido (1:31:29), as long the Portuguese Inês Henriques (1:31:23), national champion, Maribel Gonçalves (1:31:19) and Vera Santos (1:31:30), all them had a change to improve their personal best, in a way to IAAF World Race Walking Cup in La Coruña.
“Paquilo” leads men field
The men race will attend 53 race walkers, and Spaniard Francisco “Paquillo” Fernandez, 2004 Olympic and 2005 Helsinki World Championship silver medallist, winner of the IAAF World Race Walking Challenge 2005 will return to Rio Maior to defend is title in 2005 (1:19:02) and hopes improve is personal best result in Portugal. “Paquillo” will have as his main opponents two bronze medallists from the 2005 Helsinki World Championship, is country mate Juan Manuel Molina (1:19:44), who was third in 20km, and the Italian Alex Schwazer (1.24.56), who took lowest spot on the podium in the 50km race walk.
In fact, the Spaniards have a great team in Rio Maior (30 athletes!) and we can’t forget Mikel Odriozola (1:22:29), Jose Ignacio Dias (1:22:20), Jose David Martinez (1:20:15) or José Alejandro Cambil (1:21:58).
But there are other great performers, as Aigars Fadejevs, Latvia (1:19:25), 2000 Olympic 50km silver medallist and 1998 European 20km champion, and four times winner in Rio Maior (1998, 2001, 2002 and 2003), the Russian champion, Illia Markov (1:18:17), winner in 1999, and the Italian Alessandro Gandellini (1:20:28), winner in 2004, will be other of the favourites in the road.
Also in the 20km field are André Höhne, Germany (1:20:00), Erik Tysse, Norway (1:21:11), Roman Magdziarczyk, Poland (1:20:47), Hatem Ghoula, Tunisia (1:19:02), and Andriy Kovenko, Ukraine (1:21:53), and the Portuguese record holder, João Vieira (1:20:30).
António Manuel Fernandes for IAAF