The IAAF Press Conference to launch this weekend’s 22nd edition of the IAAF World Race Walking Cup was held today in Fundacíon Caixa Galicia, La Coruña.
In attendance were IAAF President Lamine Diack, José Maria Odriozola, RFEA President, Esteban Lareo, City Councillor for Sport, and Pierre Weiss, IAAF General Secretary.
And the following stars of the Race Walking scene - Nathan Deakes (AUS), Olympic 20km bronze medallist, Francisco Javier Fernández (ESP), European champion, World & Olympic 20km silver medallist, Jefferson Pérez (ECU), double World 20km champion and defending World Cup winner, Jane Saville (AUS), Olympic 20km bronze medallist, and Claudia Stef (ROM) - 2006 IAAF Race Walking Challenge, current women’s standings leader.
“I set my national record here (La Coruña) two years ago and it’s my fifth time here.”
“The course is very nice and fast and easy to race on. I find the people very nice and encouraging.”
You lead the IAAF Challenge with one win and two second places, is there any difference in your training this year?
“This is the first year in many years when I’ve had no injuries. I was very disappointed at Helsinki where I was eighth so that made me focus better this year and everything has been prefect; my training has been very good.”
“I didn’t give my all in the previous Challenge events so I hope to be in the first three or six.”
You’re leading the series and Ryta Turava can only overtake if she beats the world record. Any chance of a World record from you?”
“Ryta is very strong, she had some bad luck in Rio Maior, but she could do a World Record. I just hope for a fast time.”
Francisco Javier Fernández
‘Paquillo’ if I can call you that (“no problem”) What makes the event special?
“’Los Cantones en La Coruña’ is best Spanish race walking event with good crowds and support and it has an excellent, fast course. It is also special for me to race in my own country.”
What extra motivation does having Robert Korzeniowski as your coach give you?
“Robert Korzeniowski is a person that inspires me and in whom I have trust. He’s a great trainer and I’m happy to be with him. He motivates me greatly and I’ve learned a lot.”
“I feel I’m getting better day by day when I’m with Robert.”
You set a world best before road best times qualified as World Records, which was beaten by one second by Jefferson Peréz in Paris 2003 - is a World Record likely tomorrow?
“It depends on the weather and particularly the temperature. If it’s like today - 18/19C - then it would be a good temperature for competing in and could be very fast.”
“If personal bests come along that’s one thing, but I have to concentrate not so much on records but my own race. I haven’t really thought about records. But if it works out that I win the race and set a record - that would be great.”
You were the 1998 winner and three times World Cup winner - are you ready for another victory?
“Firstly, I’d like to thank the organisers and officials of this event in La Coruña. It’s an honour for me to participate in this sport.”
“In answer to the question - one can’t live on the results of the past - it’s nice to have done well before but you always have to have your thoughts on the upcoming event.”
“It’s nice to come and compete. I also feel I’m representing the thousands of Ecuadorians who come to Spain in search of work. I’ve come in search of the same sort of opportunities; I feel I’ve come to show that the people of a small country like Ecuador are worthy of the chance of being given opportunities here.”
“Like a child going to school you can’t always pass exams but the important thing is you try your best. I respect all these athletes but only some can win.”
Your sporting acheivements have done a lot to publicise your country and I know your religion is a driving force....
“Whether I win or lose is not going to change the lives of Ecuadorians. I want to show I’m an ordinary guy - all I want to be is like that guy” (points at Robert Korzeniowski).”
“I also dream of serving God. The Catholic religion came to my country from Spain. God is of the highest importance to me - serving him is my main driving force.”
Do you think you are now the greatest 20km walker ever?
“You know, this morning outside my hotel there was a group of kids with an Italian trainer who pointed to me and said, ‘do you know who he is?’ explaining what I’ve won. To which the boy said ‘but he’s so little and thin!’”
“It’s quite possible that I don’t have the best physiology - I may just eat porridge and rice. I haven’t come to be the greatest ever but I do all I can to be the best in the world’.”
“I’m happy to say I think it’s Robert Korzeniowski who’s the best ever. He’s a hard act to follow.”
What do you think the possibilities are for the Spanish and Ecuadorian teams?
“When we had the competition two years ago the Spanish didn’t have Francisco Fernández. Now their team is are complete. They have two World medallists now and real possibilities of medals.”
“As for Ecuador, a month ago we had a team camp in Peru and the young boys pointed to the stats showing the Chinese have 37 walkers in the top 100 in the rankings - they asked what chance have we got?”
“I said to them the chances are actually 50% - it may or may not happen. Our team is very young (apart from me!) but professional. It still needs a little bit of beating into shape but we hope for a surprise.”
After which Francisco Fernández also commented: “Our Spanish team has a lot of experience now - with Juan Manuel Molina and myself - plus we now have young Benjamin Sánchez - who was a junior two years ago but is doing well at 20km now - and José Ignacio Díaz. We have a good team, perhaps good enough for a top three placing.”
“Ecuador, China and Russia all have a good chance. The outcome could be complicated; I’d be happy with a medal.”
Nathan Deakes and Jane Saville
To both Jane and Nathan - you have a lot in common, both have Athens Olympic bronze medals at 20km and both hold area and national records. You both also recently retained your Commonwealth titles. Can you say what winning golds at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne meant to each of you?
Jane Saville: “The atmosphere was great in Melbourne; the crowds were amazing and it was lovely to be on home turf - and the Melburnians have a notorious love of any sport, even the sport of race walking that many of them had never seen before.”
Nathan Deakes: “It was very important for me to defend my title. I’m a Melburnian at heart as I grew up in Geelong which is 40km along the coast. Another thing Jane and I have in common is we come from near a beach.”
“It was estimated there were 10,000 person crowds at both days of the race walks including the Prime Minister. Also, I was very grateful to be presented with the medals on the evenings of the walks at the MCG”.
Do you think you could push to improve your Area Records?
Nathan Deakes: “Times are secondary - I was under 78 minutes here last year and my best is just 12 seconds off the record. I could give Jefferson’s record a nudge but what I’d really love to do is improve on my third place in Naumburg in 2004. I’d also be really pleased if Australia does well in the team competitions.”
Jane Saville: “I’d like to win a medal. Another difference between me and Nathan was that he was third last time and I was fourth. I definitely hope to be up there again. I wouldn’t think I could do a world record. I hope for a personal best but I’d just like to be happy with my performance.”
Tim Watt for the IAAF