The Spanish World 50 km race walking vicechampion from Edmonton 2001, Jesus Angel Garcia, is looking forward to racing on the streets of Turin on Sunday in this rare opportunity to compete in the centre of a major city.
After collecting a bronze medal at the European Championships in Munich, Garcia who will be 33 on 17 October is hoping to collect an early birthday present in front of the thousands who are expected to line the course of this 20th edition of the IAAF World Race Walking Cup, laid out in the very heart of the capital of Northern Italy’s Piedmont region.
The Spaniard reckons that the course will be tough, with many stretches over a road surface that is not ideal, but says that the prospect of competing before a big city crowd will more than compensate for the difficulties.
“Competing in the city centre is really a big stimulus for us. It is rare to be able to compete in such a place, as setting up this sort of course is a major disruption for traffic. The surfaces here mean that we are unlikely to have any record performances, but it will be a great boost for the sport to have so many spectators.
“The difficulties will be more than compensated for by the great atmosphere we can expect in the city centre.”
This year the World Race Walking Cup is taking place very late in the season, but Garcia does not see that as much of a problem either.
“Most race walkers really only aim to peak for one big competition a year and for me, this year, my sights have really been set on Turin. The fact that I won a bronze medal in Munich has demotivated me a little, but since then my training has been going well and I am really looking forward to Sunday.
“There is no question that it is going to be an extremely tough race. Even with Korzeniowski not competing, it will be hard with the Russians and Mexicans especially looking really strong.
“At the moment, the race looks really open, but I feel that the Russians will be the ones to beat.
“One thing that you can be sure of is that everyone will be attempting to give of their best in front of the crowds and that means that the early pace is likely to be very fast, but that does not really worry me too much. I have a lot of experience and I know that what really counts is to be amongst the leaders in the last ten kilometres or so. It is then that you really have a chance of victory.
“The other major stimulus here in Turin, and with the Race Walking Cup in general is for many athletes the prizes on offer. For athletes from some countries, this is an awful lot of money and that really pushes the competition. Sometimes you can get some shock results – like in Mezidon, where Sergey Korepanov was really a surprise winner.”
And who does Garcia see as the main contenders for Sunday?
“Like I said, the Russians are looking strong, but I would mention in particular Matyukhin, Potemin and Yudin, Tomas Lipiec from Poland and Aigars Fadejevs from Latvia.”
Like all race walkers, Garcia is concerned about proposals to remove this traditional athletics discipline from the Olympic programme, but his views are very pragmatic.
“I believe that those who are working to ensure that walking stays in the Olympic programme are doing everything that they can. I also believe that the choice of the programme for each sport should be the competence of the sport’s governing body. I am sure that the leaders of the IAAF will be successful.”
Jesus Angel Garcia in brief: Born in Madrid, Spain on 17 October 1969. Full name – Jesus Angel Garcia Bragado – Married to former Rhythmic Gymnastics World Champion Carmen Acedo. Winner World Race Walking Cup 50 km 1997; second in 1993/95.1993 World Champion, silver medallist in 1997 and 2001. Bronze medallist 2002 European Championships. Personal Best for 50km 3:39:54 (1997); 2002 best 3:44:33.