Olympic and world champions Valeriy Borchin and Olga Kaniskina claimed a Russian sweep at the 54th edition of the Coppa Città di Sesto San Giovanni, the fourth leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge.
Borchin dipped under 1:20 in the men’s 20km, crossing the finish line in 1:19:43 despite warm conditions and beating the surprise runner-up, Isamu Fujisawa from Japan by 2:28.
Olympic, world and European champion Olga Kaniskina dominated the women’s 20km race in 1:29:32 beating Spain’s Beatriz Pasqual by 44 seconds. Ines Henriques from Portugal took third place in 1:30:29 ahead of her compatriot and last year’s Sesto San Giovanni’s winner Vera Santos (1:31.42).
Men’s race -
Borchin went to the lead with Japanese Yusuke Suzuki in the early stages of the race. The chasing group was formed by Hassanine Sebei from Tunisia, Petr Trofimov from Russia, Mexico’s José Leyver Ojeda and Fujisawa. Borchin went through the 5Km in 20:28 and later increased his pace breaking away from Suzuki. He passed the halfway mark in 40:14 with the 5Km split between the fifth and 10th kilometres in 19:46 and the 15Km in 60:00 (19:47 between kilomtres 10 and 15). The Russian star romped home in 1:19:43 showing that he is able to produce fast times under any conditions.
“The weather did not create any problems for me,” said Borchin. “I liked the course where I heard the support of a lot of my compatriots. This was my last test before Daegu.”
Behind Borchin the fight for second place between Sebei, Suzuki, Fujisawa and Trofimov heated up. It was 24-year-old Fujisawa who prevailed by taking the runner-up spot in the final stages clocking 1:22:11 holding off Sebei, who finished third in 1:22:23.
“It was a great surprise. I am happy because I managed to qualify for Daegu. It was a very important race because it was the last chance to qualify for Daegu,” said Fujisawa.
Olympic 50Km champion Alex Schwazer finished 12th in 1:24:15 in his first 20Km race of the year since recovering from a knee injury sustained during a skiing accident.
“This result was in line with what I expected on the eve of the race. I don’t like finishing 12th but it was just a test to prepare for Daegu. I started training again only two months ago and I am aiming to reach my peak in Daegu,” Schwazer said.
Women’s race -
Five women (Pasqual, Zuzana Schindlerova from Czech Republic, Kaniskina, Santos and Henriques) formed the leading pack in the early stages of the race inside the athletics track named after Pino Dordoni, the 1952 Olympic champion in the 50Km Race Walk.
During the first lap Pasqual went to the front closely followed by Kaniskina and Santos who carved out a gap of about 40 metres on the rest of the group.
Pasqual, sixth at the World Championships in Berlin, and Kaniskina dropped Santos during the second lap. The Spaniard continued to keep the lead with the Russian closely behind. They went throug the first five kilometres in 22:18 and reached 10Km in 44:45. Pasqual remained in the lead until the 13th kilometre but Kaniskina decided that it was time to unleash her attack and switched gears, breaking away from the Spaniard at 15Km which she passed in 1:07:14 (5km split between 10 and 15 km clocked in 22:19).
Kaniskina increased her lead over Pasqual to about 60 metres with two laps to go. The Spaniard managed to defend a solid margin over Ines Henriques who overtook her compatriot Santos in the fight for third place.
Kaniskina romped home inside the Dordoni track in 1:29:32 taking her second win in this year’s IAAF Walking Challenge after Rio Major.
“I feel honoured to compete in Sesto for the first time in my career,” said Kaniskina, the twice World champion. “It means a lot to win this race and add my name to the list of athletes who have made the history of the Coppa di Sesto. I enjoyed the great support from the crowd along the course. I will now return home to prepare the title defence in Daegu where I am aiming at a third World title.”
Both Borchin and Kaniskina hail from the Republic of Mordovia where Race Walking is very popular.
Pasqual was also delighted with her second place. “I felt good at the beginning. I tried to keep my rhythm and when Olga changed gears I tried to go with her but she was stronger.”
Rigaudo’s comeback in Alessandria
On the same day one of the greatest stars of Italian walking school, Elisa Rigaudo, who gave birth to her first daughter Elena last September, made a winning comeback taking a 10,000m Race Walk on the track in Alessandria in a confidence-boosting 44:44.
“My life has changed since the birth of Elena,” said Rigaudo, the Olympic bronze medallist from Beijing. “I feel that I am fit and regenerated. I have to look after my daughter but I can rely on the help of my husband Daniele and my parents. This season is a transitional year. My real goal is the 2012 olympic season.”
Giorgio Rubino, fourth at the World Championships in Berlin in the 20Km, won the men’s 10,000m contest in 41:05 beating Federico Tondodonati who improved his PB to 41:09.
“I am very happy considering all the problems I had during the winter,” Rubino said.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Leading results from the Coppa Città di Sesto San Giovanni:
1. Valeriy Borchin (Russia) 1:19:43
2. Isamu Fujisawa (Japan) 1:22:11
3. Hassanine Sebei (Tunisia) 1:22:23
4. Petr Trofimov (Russia) 1:22:47
5. Yusuke Suzuki (Japan) 1:22:53
6. José Leyver Ojeda (Mexico) 1:22:56
7. André Höhne (Germany) 1 :22 :58
8. Ivan Trotskiy (Belarus) 1 :23 :45
9. Joao Vieira (Portugal) 1 :23 :58
10. Caio Oliveira Bonfim (Brazil) 1 :23 :59
1. Olga Kaniskina (Russia) 1:29:32
2. Beatriz Pasqual (Spain) 1:30:16
3. Ines Henriques (Portugal) 1 :30 :29
4. Vera Santos (Portugal) 1 :31 :42
5. Claudia Stef (Romania) 1 :33 :07
6. Kristina Saltanovic (Lithuania) 1:33:19
7. Larisa Yemelyanova (Russia) 1:33:30
8. Ana Cabecina (Portugal) 1:34:03
9. Ana Maria Groza (Romania) 1:34:11
10. Brigita Virbalite (Lithuania) 1:35:33