There was jubilation today on the streets of the capital of the Mordivian Republic as race walkers from its Olympic training centre came home winners in the men’s and women’s 10km races which concluded the 2009 IAAF Race Walking Challenge season at its final here in Saransk (19).
Junior records fall
The winners were Andrey Ruzavin (38:17) and world junior champion Tatyana Mineyeva (42:04), though in the chase for the overall season’s prize of US$30,000 - part of a US$202,000 purse being distributed by the IAAF to the top eight race walkers in the both men’s and women’s categories - it was today’s third-placed finishers Eder Sanchez of Mexico and Norway’s Kjersti Plätzer who went away with the biggest pay cheque.
Mineyeva time is a European junior record, while Stanislav Yemelyanov, 18, who was second in the men’s race by clocking 38:28, has established a world junior record, subject to ratification.
Berlin champions on show but not racing
The winners of the 2009 world titles – Olga Kaniskina (women's 20km), Valeriy Borchin (20km) and Sergey Kirdyapkin (50km) – were not racing today (19) but were given VIP places on the spectator tribunes to watch the two 10km races which were worked out on the streets of the capital.
Thankfully Saturday morning in Saransk awoke chilly, only 6C, but the rain of the previous evening had gone, and as the women race walkers started their 10km race, there were rays of autumn sun.
There was a close fight between Norway’s 37-year-old Kjersti Plätzer, the Beijing Olympic 20km silver medallist and last year’s overall challenge winner who was competing in her last ever competition, and a group of young and ambitious, victory-hungry Russians.
In the absence of the omnipotent Kaniskina, it was Plätzer who took the lead but two Russian “novices” were immediately after her. They didn't overtake Platzer until the command of their coach was given.
“Our coach just told us to be calm and be well concentrated in the first kilometres of the race,” explained second-placed Vera Sokolova, 22, the national 20km champion and former world youth and junior champion. “We obeyed his command and only after we received the sign did we pass the Norwegian.”
The winner Tatyana Mineyeva, 19, said: “we took it very, very seriously. And when Vera and I took the lead we decided to race together in order to have control over the whole distance. Under all circumstances our main task was to win. But when the finish was very close it was for Vera and myself to decide who was the best today.”
And with the race secure for Saransk, the Mordivian Republic and the Russian Federation, it was Mineyeva who proved to be the best winning in 42:04 with Sokolova eight seconds behind. Plätzer took third in 42:50.
Mineyeva's time was a European junior record bettering the 42:44 set by Tatyana Kalmykova at the 2008 IAAF World Cup in Cheboksary.
“Now I'll stop competing,” declared Plätzer, “I was racing to win because I intended to do well at my last international performance. I have so many things to do back home. I have two children. My daughter is going to be a musician, not a racer and she is very fond of music and dances. May be my four-year-old son Sebastian will keep the family tradition?
“And as far is the tournament is concerned I must admit that the most difficult thing for me here was to withstand this sudden Russian cold,” said the Norwegian. “But the distance was quite good and I liked it here, except for the weather. Two Russians were strong and I failed to win the race although winning the overall standing.”
The runner-up Vera Sokolova was a bit upset for she was longing for victory. “Maybe,” said Sokolova, “I lacked a bit of speed and just a bit of endurance in the last metres. I'd like to express my gratitude to my first coach Nickolaeva.”
“I lived in a region that is far from Saransk and it was only recently that I joined the famous school of Victor Chegin. I feel that I'm progressing. That is wonderful to work in such a victorious team. And let me say thanks for all the spectators who cheered us so loudly and friendly. And now I feel ready to challenge my opponents at 20km distance. But for today my task is considered to be fulfilled.”
Mineyeva was happy: “It is my first serious victory among the seniors. I won before only at junior tournaments. We knew that Plätzer was focussed on winning her last race walk. But sport is a tough game where nobody wants to lose even to highly respected names.”
“I learned only after the finish that I got two warnings from the judges. And for me it’s an important sign. It means that referees here are morestrict then at junior tournaments. Believe me I did my best to observe the rules and will try it even better at my next serious start.”
“I saw my mother among spectators. I dedicate my victory to her.”
Mexico’s Eder Sanchez, the world 20km bronze medallist in Berlin, took a large early lead in the men’s race but was eventually closed down by two Russians Andrey Ruzavin and Stanislav Yemelyanov. Ruzavin's final acceleration was magnificent. His victory was well deserved.
“My victory looked to be an easy one only from a distant first glance,” smiled the happy winner, Ruzavin, “my opponents were strong and it was quite a fight between us. I wasn't worried when Eder took the lead for I knew I was strong enough to challenge him.”
“I finished first but I could have done even faster. There was only one notion I took into consideration: the judges. I took great care to observe the technical components of my walk for I was a bit afraid of receiving warnings. My last season left much to be desired and I failed to make the Olympic team and to go to Beijing. This season is much better though at the beginning of it I was injured and had to miss training. Now I'll consider carefully what distance to specialize at next year, 20km or 50km.”
Yemelyanov’s walk in second place (38:28) demolished the current world junior record of Aleksey Bartsaykin, 39:57, which was set at the 2008 IAAF World Cup in Cheboksary. But Yemelyanov didn't have much to say except that his happiness was overwhelming.
Eder Sanchez was happy, “I enjoyed the atmosphere, the food, the spectators.”
Nickolai Dolgopolov and Rostislav Orlov for the IAAF
1 Tatyana Mineyeva (RUS) 42:04
2 Vera Sokolova (RUS) 42:12
3 Kjersti Platzer (NOR) 42:50
1 Andrei Ruzavin (RUS) 38:17
2 Stanislav Yemelyanov (RUS) 38:28
3 Eder Sanchez (MEX),38:31