Approaching her fifth Olympic Games this summer Susana Feitor wants to believe she can finally “do something” in a World Race Walking Cup and Olympic year.
“I’m enjoying my training and I think I can finally achieve a result”, said the 33 year old Portuguese race walker who in comparison has relatively thrived in IAAF World Champioships in Athletics (bronze in Helsinki, fourth in Seville and fifth last year in Osaka) yet did not finish in the last World Cup and has had an Olympic run of luck showing 13th as her best placing, back in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Last Saturday (5) at the 17th Grande Prémio Internacional de Rio Maior, the second event of the 2008 IAAF Race Walking Challenge, Feitor narrowly lost out to Kjersti Plätzer of Norway, who extended her lead in the standings as a result.
Despite being pipped to the line in front of her home town spectators Feitor was far from disappointed as, with her focus fixed on the 23rd IAAF World Race Walking Cup, Cheboksary, Russia, 10/11 May 2008, she exactly matched her objective.
“Rio Maior’s very important for us but I’m working a lot for the World Cup in Russia. Saturday was in the middle of that training. My aim was do walk a similar time to the national championships”, she said after the race.
In fact, she exactly matched her 1:29:31 winning time for the Portuguese 20km Race Walk title on 1 March in Mealhada - to the second!
So, Saturday’s result was both encouraging and a pointer to improvements required to match the pace of Plätzer and the other leading walkers she’s due to face on 11 May in Cheboksary.
“It was a beautiful race. There was a leading group of me, Kjersti (Plätzer) and Ana Cabecinha (also of Portugal) until at 13 kilometres Kjersti moved ahead. I didn't give up and caught her but she had a really strong finish to win by 2 seconds.”
“It's a pity to lose the race in the last 50 metres but it was a good result and I’m happy with it.”
“For the World Cup I feel like I need to be a little stronger to maintain 1:29 or 1:28 pace. I need to work on that to do a good result - closer to 1:29 or below.”
“I have so many long stories about injuries so I know I must be careful. I'm not 20 years old anymore!”
The team element of the World Race Walking Cup is another objective. “We have a good team. I mean we have four girls that could possibly fight for a good result, so the World Cup’s very important for Portugal.”
Feitor has experience of Cheboksary, having finished fifth in the European Cup of Race Walking there five years ago.
“It was very interesting, there were lots of people spectating and I enjoyed the com-petition. The only thing I should say is the road is alongside a lake so if we have some wind it’s going to be very difficult but if not, well, it’s almost a track - very fast. So, let’s hope there’s no wind that weekend.”
Looking ahead to the second part of the season, and Beijing in particular, Feitor doesn’t mind putting herself under pressure, while she can look back wistfully on what really counts for her.
“Beijing for me is going to be my fifth Olympics. That’s a long time - next year will be my 20th year of international competition. First of all, it’s a big joy for me to be able to go there, but my best times have not been in Olympic Games. Every time something happens: injuries, sickness before Athens, I was DQ’d in 1992...”
“I’m trying to be relaxed and focused on my training. It’s good to enjoy it and I think I can finally achieve a result. In World Championships I have had ninth place, fifth place, fourth place, bronze medal - come on, that’s technically just the same!”
“Psychologically, I need to be relaxed and believe, finally, I can do it. I’m an old women, I need to do something!”
“After everything, medals, records don’t really matter. The things we are going to remember are the good times we had. I mean the relationships, the people... sport is good for that. That’s why I love sports. Well, I’m a sports woman.”
In sport luck will always be a factor but, with her early season’s objectives achieved, Susana remains cautiously optimistic about 2008.
“Things are going well - I've had a good start to the season. I just need to keep fo-cused and keep going.”
Tim Watt for the IAAF