CarloThe 22nd IAAF World Race Walking Cup takes place this weekend in La Coruña, Spain, 13 – 14 May, where the senior women will race the 20km, a preview for which now follows:
Olimpiada Ivanova has 21 years experience of preparing for international championships and, since falling short of the title she was named for in Athens, the 35-year-old Russian has perfected the art.
At Helsinki last August Ivanova came down from her mountain retreat, where she trains on her own, supported only by her coach and husband Eduard Ivanova and daughter Maria, and walked away with a World record of 1:25:41 - a time good enough to win a men's Olympic gold up to and including the 1972 Games - and a cheque of $160,000 (win & World record bonus).
Ivanova has yet to win a World Cup however, as she was injured two years ago and was out fought by Erica Alfridi in Turin in 2002. She was also second in 1997.
At La Coruña, the Chuvash native may need to raise her game still further as a new generation of Russian women are likely to be clipping at her heels, plus Ryta Turava, second in Helsinki, has also shown blistering form.
In the Russian Championship in February Olga Kaniskina, Irina Petrova and Ludmila Efimkina were all well under 1:27:00 for 20km, with 21-year-old Mordovian Russian Army Club walker Kanishkina winning in a time only 21s outside Ivanova's World Record.
Ryta Turava of Belarus toyed with her IAAF Grand Prix Challenge opposition two weeks ahead of the World Cup - strolling to an easy win in Milan when compared to her 1:26:11 at her National Championship in mid April.
Germany's Melanie Seeger of all people has an incentive for to gun for the World record as that’s the only way she can even have a chance to overtake Romania's Claudia Stef in the IAAF's 2006 Walking Challenge. The German currently stands in second place with 17pts.
It may seem a Russian team title is a formality but they slipped up in last year's European Cup, despite an Ivanova victory, with Portugal gaining the team award ahead of Italy and Romania.
This time however, with injury worries for Portugal's leading walker Susan Feitor and the late emergence of an Italian challenge, the main opposition for the team award is likely to come from the Chinese who have three walkers - Dan He, Xiaoling Song and Hong Liu - closely matched at 6, 7 and 8 in the year's rankings.
Tim Watt for the IAAF