“A very good day” is how 25yearold German walker Sabine Zimmer summed up the 49th edition of the Coppa Sesto San Giovanni on 1 May.
I didn’t expect third
The reserved but determined policewoman revealed an excitable side after climbing onto the podium at the penultimate IAAF Race Walking Challenge event of 2006, near Milan, Italy.
“I’ve won the World Juniors in 1998 and other bronze medals at World Junior and European under 23 level but this was my first medal in a senior international competition’ said the German champion and record holder.”
As significant for Germany was her time of 1:31:06, which is the national qualifying standard for the European Championships later this summer in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“My main aim was to beat the 1:32:00 qualifying time for Gothenburg. I got that which his OK, but I didn’t expect third place!” said Zimmer.
“My coach (Marino Grandi) told me not to walk too fast in the first half, as (I did) in Rio Maior, but to stay in the main group, and then to put myself on the pace in the second half. In the race I felt relaxed and at 10km I was right on schedule. Then I tried to walk with Claudia Stef but the last 3km was very hard and I couldn’t go with her.”
Zimmer followed Ryta Turava (BLR) and Stef (ROM) into the Stadio Pino Dordoni, to finish one place and 13 seconds ahead of her compatriot Melanie Seeger. Sabine also left double Commonwealth champion Jane Saville, the Olympic bronze medallist in her wake.
Zimmer’s win over Seeger was a reversal of the order a month earlier at the second Grand Prix series event in Rio Maior, Portugal. In that race, 29-year-old Melanie Seeger finished well inside the Gothenburg qualifying time with her 1:29:15, while Zimmer finished in an unsatisfying eighth position in 1:33:54.
In describing their local rivalry, Zimmer is, suitably for her profession, detached and controlled. “I didn't think about Melanie in the competition.’ Both live in Potsdam but don’t train together. “We do things separately. We also have different coaches.”
Only the ‘Potsdam two’
They have every reason to compete ‘head to head’ at the World Cup as well since there won’t be a full German team - only the Potsdam duo will compete in German colours in the women’s 20km at La Coruña.
Zimmer set the national 20km record in winning the 2004 German Championships in Hildesheim in a time of 1:27:56, superseding Seeger’s 1:28:17 for ninth place at the last World Cup in Naumburg a month before. Seeger has come closer to championship medals however, with a fifth placing in the Athens Olympics as well as 11th at the Helsinki World Championships last year, eighth in the 2003 World Championships and seventh at Edmonton in 2001. At Naumburg, Zimmer was 20th in 1:29:56, in the Athens Olympics was a disappointed 16th place, at Paris in 2003 was 20th, and in Helsinki, finished 23rd.
“I hope to be in the top-15 or maybe the top-10 at La Coruña’ said Zimmer two weeks ahead of the 2006 World Race Walking Cup. “Now I have the European qualifying time I can just go out and race.”
At the moment, Zimmer isn’t looking further ahead than that. “Gothenburg is in three months time. How well I perform then depends on my condition and training after the World Cup.”
Unlike many top walkers, Sabine hasn’t travelled overseas to altitude to train this year. “I train at home, apart from a time at the German training camp near Berlin.”
Zimmer is, however, clearly ambitious to achieve great things in race walking.
“Everyone wants to win medals - that’s the reason you work so hard and go through the pain of the training. I want to win medals in big championships.”
Tim Watt for the IAAF