Podebrady, Czech Republic – Competing in warm and sunny conditions, Matej Tóth of Slovakia took his fourth victory at this 20Km Race Walking event while Sibilla Di Vincenzo led a podium sweep for Italy in the women’s contest.
It was a fine spring afternoon with temperature topping 20 C. with plenty of sun and little wind in this central Bohemian spa city. This EA competition was held on a provisional 1066.13 meter circuit due to reconstruction on the common colonnade one kilometre track.
Tóth all alone - Men’s race
Tóth showed his dominance from the early steps and it was clear the competition would be just between him and the clock.
“It wasn’t as easy as it may have looked, but I had control over the race all the time,” said Tóth, the 2010 World Cup 50k winner and clear pre-event favourite. “On the other it was pity I had to go by myself, it would have been better to compete with someone else. I had a little problem around 15k to find the right motivation, but it was worth winning.”
“I knew there wasn’t any chance to go for a PB, because I felt tired from previous races. So I took pace to go for win.” Tóth, who won here in 2003, 2008, 2009 and now 2012, clocked 1:21:53, his second best time here.
“I will miss (the IAAF Race Walking Cup in) Saransk and fully concentrate on 50k at Olympics, so it was my last serious race before that.”
The “real” race was on fire behind Tóth. It was Aku Partanen for more than a half of contest, who had lead the chasing walkers, but in the end he couldn’t finish because of three fouls. Anyway, the Finnish team took second position thanks to his colleague Jarkko Kinnunen who crossed the line more than one minute after winner in 1:23:12.
Hungarian Máté Helebrandt was very active the in pursuing group for a long time, but it was his teammate Sándor Rácz who could rejoice the third spot, finishing exactly two minutes behind Tóth. Helebrandt and Rácz secured win for their country in the international match while Slovaks took second place just ahead of Italians Vito Di Bari, Macchia and Cafagna who lined up from 6th to 8th behind fifth-placed Latvian Arnis Rumbenieks.
Best home walker, Karel Ketner, crossed the line ninth in 1:28:12, an almost two minute improvement on his PB and took his third consecutive national title.
Italian party – women’s race
For more than a half of race it looked like Czech top woman Lucie Pelantová was on her way to an emphatic win and result. Unfortunately for home fans, she dropped back at 11k and despite still solid effort after that point, in the end she wasn’t able to find a way to stop her Italian rivals.
It was Sibilla Di Vincenzo and Federica Ferraro who caught Pelantová (she is already qualified for London from Lugano) first and with few laps to go.
Going for the last lap Di Vincenzo built a little gap which she held to the line, winning in 1:34:16. “I’m really tired,” said the 29-year-old experienced walker few seconds after crossing the line, but smiling. “It was strange weather here, windy, but hot. The course wasn’t that easy and my only goal was to finish. It’s a great thing for me to win here after two years and I hope I can repeat this result at the World Cup. I’m glad we finished on top as a team as well.”
Ferraro finished eight seconds back and her teammate in third, Antonella Palmisano, was even closer (three seconds). The last two laps by youngest of the Italian squad were clearly faster than anyone from the whole field produced.
Pelantová wasn’t that far back, just 20 seconds behind winner in fourth, but as a clear national champion for the fourth time (and third time in a row).
Italians were – not surprisingly – first in the international match, with the Czech team in second ahead of Hungary. Czech No. 2 Zuzana Schindlerová was sixth – she’s returning after a minor back thigh injury and in hoping for another Olympics. She’ll be chasing the standard in Saransk. Beijing participant Schindlerová was a few seconds behind Latvian Anita Kažemaka here in Podebrady.
A. Drahotová and Minei, junior champions
Rising home stars, the twin Drahotová sisters Anežka and Eliška, finished first and third in the 10K to lead the Czech team to the junior women’s title while Italian Anna Clemente finished in between the pair. Due to disqualification of leading walkers in the men’s junior contest, Italy seized all podium positions. In a tight finish Vito Minei finished one second ahead of Francesco Fortunato.
Michal Procházka for IAAF
Leading results – “Podebrady 2012”
20 km – EA Permit, International Match (IM)
1. Matej Tóth (SVK) 1:21:54
2. Jarkko Kinnunen (FIN) 1:23:12,
3. (2. in IM) Sándor Rácz (HUN) 1:23:54
4. (3. in IM) Máté Helebrandt (HUN) 1:24:10
5. (4. in IM) Arnis Rumbenieks (LAT) 1:24:47
6. (5. in IM) Vito di Bari (ITA) 1:26:04
… 9. (8. in IM) Karel Ketner (CZE) 1:28:12
Teams: 1. Hungary 5 pts, 2. Slovakia 10, 3. Italy 11, 4. Latvia 16, 5. Czech Rep. 18, 6. Sweden DNF.
1. Sibilla Di Vincenzo (ITA) 1:34:16
2. Federica Ferraro (ITA) 1:34:24
3. Antonella Palmisano (ITA) 1:34:27
4. Lucie Pelantová (CZE) 1:34:36
5. Anita Kažemaka (LAT) 1:35:51
6. (5. in IM) Zuzana Schindlerová (CZE) 1:36:11
Teams: 1. Italy 3 pts, 2. Czech Rep. 9, 3. Hungary 14, 4. Slovakia 16
Junior Races 10 km –
1. Anežka Drahotová (CZE) 47:47
2. Anna Clemente (ITA) 48:30
3. Eliška Drahotová (CZE) 49:37
Teams: 1. Czech Rep. 4 pts, 2. Italy 6, 3. Hungary 11
1. Vito Minei (ITA) 43:10
2. Francesco Fortunato (ITA) 43:11
3. Marco Amati (ITA) 45:04
… 6. (5. in IM) Ondrej Motl (CZE) 45:56
Teams: 1. Italy 3 pts, 2. Czech Rep. 12, 3. Slovakia 15