Quite possibly the greatest collection of Race Walking talent ever to be assembled at one event will contest the 21st IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Naumburg, Germany (1 – 2 May 2004) in one week’s time.
More than 350 athletes are set to compete in the Cup, the premier Race Walking event which, as usual, offers senior athletes competition over 20km (men & women) and 50km (men only). For the first time in history, there will also be 10km competitions for juniors (men & women).
Of the assembled senior elite, the men’s entries can boast six of the top eight athletes from the current IAAF World Ranking for the discipline, while the women have an even stronger line-up, as the top 12 in the world are entered.
Of course there is no better recommendation of the quality of the competitions we can look forward to in Naumburg, than the name of Poland’s Robert Korzeniowski, the reigning Olympic 20km and 50km champion, three-time World Champion at 50km – and World record holder. The 35 year-old will contest the 20km race.
All three winners from the last World Cup in Turin will also be on show – Ecuador’s World record holder Jefferson Perez (20km), Aleksey Voyevodin of Russia (50km), and Italy’s Erica Alfridi (women’s 20km).
Perez is, of course, also the 2003 World 20km champion and he and his female gold medal winning counterpart in Paris last summer, Yelena Nikolayeva of Russia, who also races in Naumburg, lead the current IAAF World Race Walking Ranking.
Nikolayeva was part of the Russian squad in Turin which won the team title;in fact, Russia took all three team golds in 2002. However, their task in defending their women’s senior title in Naumburg will be particularly difficult, as an Italian team of the highest quality will be led by Elisa Rigaudo. The 23 year-old leads the 2004 Race Walking Challenge - of which the Cup is a part - after victories in both the opening events in Tijuana and Rio Maior.
Ireland’s Gillian O’Sullivan, the World Championships silver medallist who won the inaugural Race Walking Challenge in 2003, will also compete in Naumburg. Incidentally, Korzeniowski was the inaugural men’s Challenge winner in 2003.
Finally, the 2000 Olympic women's 20km champion Liping Wang of China is also entered. She only returned to competition last month, having been on maternity leave most of last year.
To go with the top notch start list in Naumburg, there is an equally high level prize structure on offer, as follows:
Prize Money – Individual (Senior only): 1st US $30,000 2nd US $15,000 3rd US $10,000 4th US $ 7,000 5th US $ 5,000 6th US $ 3,000.
Team (Senior only): 1st US $15,000 2nd US $12,000 3rd US $ 9,000 4th US $ 7,500 5th US $ 6,000 6th US $ 3,000.