Matej Toth can hardly believe he has become the World 50km race walk Cup winner in Chihuahua (Getty Images) © Copyright
Matej TÓTH, Slovak Republic (20km/50km Race Walk)
Born: 10 February 1983, Nitra, Slovak Republic
Coach: Juraj Bencik
Club: VSC Dukla Banska Bystrica (Army Sports Club)
Matej Tóth was a boy who liked sport very much. He tried many activities, like karate and football, but later realised that he liked athletics most, especially distance running. It was his interest in running 1000m and 1500m that made him start to attend the athletics class for talented kids at basic school in Nitra from the age of 10. Two years later he tried race walking under the supervision of coach Peter Meciar.
At the beginning of the productive carrier, 16-year-old Tóth competed for the first time on the international stage at the 1999 World Youth Championships, in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Contesting the 10,000 meters race walk, he achieved 8th place. Two years later, in 2001, he took 6th place at European Junior Championships in Grosseto for 44:14,72 and in 2002 he participated in the World Junior Championships, in Kingston, Jamaica, in the same event. With 45:05.02 he took 16th place. The following year he set a personal best for the 20km race walk (1:23:17) and finished 10th at the World University Games, in Daegu, Korea, in 1:27:51.
The Olympic year of 2004 started successfully for Tóth as he met the Olympic B standard twice: the first time was in Dudince, Slovak Republic, clocking 1:23:18, and then in June at international German Championships, in Hildesheime, achieving 7th place (1:24:04). Tóth’s Olympic debut ended with 32nd place in Athens. The Slovak thought that he could have gone faster and was not satisfied with his time (1:28:49). However, after clocking 42:29 at the 10,000m mark, he received two red cards from the judges in the second half and had to slow down. The reparation came in his next big international event debut, at the 2005 World Championships, in Helsinki, where he finished 21st in 1:23:55.
In 2006, Tóth was named best Slovak athlete of the year thanks to his great result at the European Championships, in Göteborg, where he took 6th place in 1:21:39. His success in his professional life was followed by family happiness a year later as he became a father in August 2007. Five months earlier, in March, he had married Lenka Korcokova, who gave a birth to their daughter, Emma Tóthova. His wife comes also from an athletics family - her brother is 50km race walk specialist Peter Korcok.
The World Championships, in Osaka, also fulfilled the expectations of the 24-year-old fresh father. With his 14th place in 1:25:57 he did not have any reason to be upset: “I am totally satisfied with the result,” he said. “Now I have a big motivation in the training for next year´s Olympics.” His goal was to place in the top 12 in Beijing. His 2007 season reached a conclusion at the CISM World Military Games, in Hyderabad, India. The member of Slovak military club Dukla Banska Bystrica gained the bronze medal in 1:25.42.70 at the 20,000m distance.
As was the case for most of the athletes attending the Military Games in India in October 2007, Tóth started his Olympic preparation later than would otherwise have been the case. From the altitude of 1900m above the sea level in Melago, in the Italian Alps, they moved to a training camp in Mexico at 2440m altitude. Despite the hard preparation and motivation from Osaka, the Slovak representative finished in 26th place in Beijing.
The 25-year-old soldier clocked 1:23.17 and was satisfied with the time but not with the position. His personal best from that year, 1:21.24 from the World Cup in Cheboksary, Russia, was almost two minutes away. “From my point of view, it was my second or third best 20 km of my career,” he said. “I am satisfied with the time. If someone had told me before this race that I would go 1:23 in this climate, I would have laughed at them. However, the position is not good. History will not ask in what time I got into the finish. There were 25 better race walkers today.”
The athlete, under coach Juraj Bencik, made big progress during that year. But it was still not enough as his rivals have improved even more. “I clocked 1:26 at last year´s World Championships and I was 14th,” Tóth noted. “Today, I was 3 minutes faster and the time was not enough even for a similar position.”
The opening race of the 2009 season - the IAAF Race Walking Challenge, in the Mexican city of Chihuahua, in mid March - ended with 12th place for the Slovak 20km walker (1:25:41). “I went 40 seconds faster than last year and I was 2 places higher, so it is satisfying,” he said. “Despite the training for the 50km distance I was able to improve my result from last year. Even this week we walked almost 140km and we started to compete without any tuning up.”
Later, in March, Matej started at the International EAA Race Walking competition “Dudince 50km” in the Slovak city of Dudince. In his 50km debut, which was also a national championships for the Slovak, Czech, Hungarian and Polish athletes, he unexpectedly broke the Slovak national record from 1987, improving it by 48 seconds to 3:41:32. Thus, he also fulfilled the qualifying criteria for the World Championships in Berlin. “Even in my most secret dreams I did not expect I would be so fast,” Tóth said. “I knew I could make the limit, or even reach a time around 3:50, but I was not sure as this was my first 50km ever.”
The fitness of Sergeant Tóth continued to grow and, after winning the next competition – the 48th edition of “20km in Olomouc” clocking 1:24:38 - he showed his domination at 20km distance at „the EAA International Race Walking meeting in the Czech city of Podebrady on April 25. He took victory in a new personal best 1:20:53 to meet the qualifying criteria for the World Championships. “My plan was to go sub 1:21 and I managed it,” he said.
In June, Tóth participated in the athletics meeting Kriterium SNP at his home stadium in Banska Bystrica. Walking 30,000m in 2:08:14.6., he improved the Slovak national track record from 1984 by almost 11 minutes. A second national record – in a 2 hours race - was also achieved during this event as Tóth covered 28,026m in that time.
Matej Tóth had never competed in the two events in one championships before Berlin. Considering his times achieved at 50km track, he belonged among the favorites of that race. His preparation and training in 2009 was also focused and targeted more on longer distances. The first competition under the Brandenburg Gate in hot August weather was 20km race walk. The Slovak athlete surprised with a solid achievement of 1:21:13, second fastest time of his career, and took 9th place. It was also his best placement ever at the World Championships.
Six days after his life´s best achievement, he started the 50 km race. His aim was to place even higher than at 20km and to go fast from the start. But the ward of a coach Juraj Bencik ended totally exhausted the finish of the race walking marathon. “This race was the toughest in my life,” he said right after the double in Berlin. “The pace was too fast from the beginning,” he commented. “Between the 38th and 40th kilometres I felt like I was at the 56th kilometre. I felt very bad and was thinking about giving up the race.” But Matej´s family was supporting him in the German capital – his father, brother and brother-in-law were holding a poster with a picture of his daughter Emma what gave him enough energy to finish. After a big personal fight he gained 10th place in 3:48:35, becoming the most successful Slovak athlete in Berlin.
Only a few days after his arrival from Berlin, the 26-year-old Tóth became a father for the second time. His wife Lenka gave a birth to a daughter, Nina, on 3 September 2009.
Matej Tóth, who is a journalist by education, qualified for the European Championships in Barcelona on 26 March 2010 at the traditional “Dudince 50km” race. After a training period that began at the end of October, the athlete of army sports club Dukla in Banska Bystrica achieved 1:22:25 to win the 20km race in Dudince, which was 2:05 min faster than the Slovak qualification criteria. Later in mid April, he improved his season best on 1:22:04 taking 7th place at IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Rio Maior, Portugal. However, already at the beginning of March he announced that he would not double in Barcelona, but instead try to improve the 6th place from Göteborg 2006 on 20km. “In Berlin, I was the 4th fastest European in this event, so I think my chance is bigger in this race,” Tóth stated.
But he planned to try also the 50km this year - after 5 weeks of training camp in Mexico - at the IAAF World Cup in Chihuahua on 15-16 May. “I will start just in case that everything is going well during the training camp and if I am healthy,” he added. Tóth was already qualified to Chihuahua based on last year’s performances. 5 top Slovak race walkers were spending long training period in the city of Creel, some 300km from Chihuahua, at 2400m above sea level. “The heat, dry air, strong mountain sun and the altitude are a deadly combination,” said Matej Tóth, who walks about 180km weekly, about the competition in Mexico.
This year, Matej Tóth started to train with the next Slovak talented race walker, Anton Kucmin from Dubnica. They both hope it will bring improvements and Tóth keeps an eye on his last year´s PB 1:20:53.
20 km Race Walk: 1:20:53 (2009)
50 km Race Walk: 3:41:32 (2009)
20 km Race Walk: 2001: 1:29:33; 2002: 1:32:24, 2003: 1:23:17; 2004: 1:23:18; 2005: 1:21:38; 2006: 1:21:39; 2007: 1:25:10; 2008: 1:21:24; 2009: 1:20:53, 2010: 1:22:04.
1999 8th World Youth Championships (Bydgoszcz), 10km 46:49.33
2001 6th European Junior Championships (Grosseto), 10km 44:14,72
2002 16th World Junior Championships (Kingston), 10km 45:05.02
2003 24th European Cup of Race Walking (Cheboksary), 20km 1:25:28
2003 6th European U23 Championships (Bydgoszcz), 20km 1:25:59
2003 10th World University Games (Daegu), 20km 1:27:51
2004 54th World Race Walking Cup (Naumburg), 20km 1:26:59
2004 32nd Olympic Games (Athens), 20km 1:28:49
2005 21st World Championships (Helsinki), 20km 1:23:55
2005 9th World University Games (Izmir), 20km 1:28:58
2006 46th World Race Walking Cup (La Coruña), 20km 1:26:30
2006 6th European Championships (Göteborg), 20km 1:21:39
2007 27th European Cup of Race Walking (Leamington), 20km 1:25:12
2007 14th World Championships (Osaka), 20km 1:25:57
2007 3rd CISM World Military Games (Hyderabad), 20km 1:25.42
2008 17th World Race Walking Cup (Cheboksary), 20km 1:21:24
2008 26th Olympic Games (Beijing), 20km 1:23:17
2009 2nd EAA 50km Race Walking (Dudince), 50km 3:41:32
2009 12th IAAF Race Walking Challenge (Chihuahua) , 20km 1:25:41
2009 1st EAA International Race Walking (Podebrady), 20km 1:20:53
2009 9th EAA European Walking Cup (Metz), 20km 1:27:29
2009 9th World Championships (Berlin), 20km 1:21:13
2009 10th World Championships (Berlin), 50km 3:48:35
Prepared by Zuzana Trojakova for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2009-2010
- Matej Toth can hardly believe he has become the World 50km race walk Cup winner in Chihuahua (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Matej Toth of Slovakia wins the 50km race walk in Chihuahua, Mexico (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Matej Toth celebrates winning gold on the World Race Walking Cup podium in Chihuahua (Getty Images) © Copyright