Former World junior champion Cristian Berdeja sealed the overall win for Mexico at the Pan American Race Walking Cup in the Salvadoran capital (May 1-2), where athletes from Colombia and Brazil clinched the other individual victories.
Making his debut in the 50km this season, the 2000 World junior gold medallist improved his personal best by over 10 minutes and broke the four-hour barrier for the first time to win comfortably by nearly 10 minutes.
The 27-year old completed the longer distance in 3:58:46, ahead of Ecuador’s Mesias Zapata (4:08:10) and Colombia’s Rodrigo Moreno (4:09:31).
Berdeja was second at the 2003 Cup in Mexico and fourth two years earlier in Brazil over 20km.
Mexico has dominated the 50km in all editions of the continental event since its inception in 1984.
Berdeja gave Mexico its only individual win, but podium finishes in the 10km and 20km, both men and women, assured the overall victory for the regional powerhouse of race walking.
Mexico totaled 188 points and was followed by Colombia (158), El Salvador (102), Brazil (76) and Guatemala (75).
Visa problems prevented Ecuador from competing on the first day (May 1). The team included 2005 champion Rolando Saguipay.
Second in 2005 and third in 2007, Colombia’s Luis Fernando Lopez finally savoured the taste of victory, thanks to his 1:22:18 effort.
The 2006 CAC Games and 2008 South American champion, who finished at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, prevailed over his younger compatriot and 2008 South American bronze medallist James Rendon, who crossed the finish line in 1:23:21.
The Mexican quartet followed: Omar Segura (1:23:49), 18-year old Pedro Gomez (1:23:58), Adrian Herrera (1:24:33) and David Mejia (1:25:12).
In the women’s race, Tania Spindler claimed the first title for Brazil in the history of the event after waking the 20km in 1:38:53.
The 32-year-old has made a remarkable progress from her 11th placing at home in 2007. Since the last Pan Am Cup, she improved the Brazilian record to 1:33:23 at the 2008 World Cup in Cheboksary, Russia, before making her Olympic debut in Beijing.
A month earlier, she finished ninth at the second leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Rio Maior, Portugal.
Veronica Colindres pleased the home crowd with her silver medal performance in 1:39:45, well ahead of Mexico’s Maria Sanchez Guerrero (1:42:12).
At 46 year of age, the 1993 World Cup silver medallist Graciela Mendoza finished a commendable seventh in 1:46:21. Mendoza has won four Pan Am Cup titles in 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1996, all in 10km.
El Salvador’s 2007 Pan American Games gold medallist and two-time defending champion Cristina Lopez did not finish.
Colombia and Brazil traded victories in the junior races.
Colombia’s 19-year old Anlly Pineda, who finished 12th at the 2008 World Junior Championships, completed the 10km in 49:50, well clear of Mexican pair of Erandi Uribe (50:50) and Adriana Ochoa (51:29).
In the men’s event, 18-year old Caio Bonfim, sixth at the 2008 World Junior Championships, came victories after a close duel with Mexico’s Adrian Ochoa, eighth at the 2008 World Cup junior race.
Bonfim completed the distance in 43:04 minutes, just one second ahead of Ochoa. Colombia’s Julian Rendon (43:57) rounded out the podium.
The Pan American Cup drew 120 athletes from 14 countries. The next edition is slated for Chile in 2011.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF