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Mexico City, MexicoMexico has a long and victorious history in the world race walking, and now a new generation of Mexican athletes has the chance to write an even more successful chapter for their country at the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Chihuahua, Mexico, 15/16 May.
World 20Km bronze medallist Eder Sanchez and Horacio Nava, who finished sixth over 50Km at the 2008 Olympics, will lead the Mexican squad who will be looking to expand upon their past success on their home soil.
In his career Sanchez has won three medals in World Race Walking Cup events: a bronze in the 20Km at Cheboksary 2008, and four years before that, in 2004, as a junior he won the silver medal at 10Km and junior team gold. Despite his past success, the 23-year -old Sanchez thinks Chihuahua 2010 is an important challenge.
“This is a very important event for all the Mexican athletes,” said Sanchez, who is also a Second Sergeant in the Mexican Army. “Not just because we have a great world history in race walking, and not just because I won a bronze medal at Cheboksary 2008, but because this is the first time for us, the new generation of Mexican race walkers, that we will have the opportunity to compete in our country in such a big event. We all make big efforts to give to our country a wonderful result, especially in this important year that all Mexicans celebrate two centuries of the Independence Movement, and one century of the Mexican Revolution. This World Cup means a lot more for Mexican athletes.”
Nava to compete in hometown
World and Olympic finalist Nava will lead the team at 50Km. Nava, the sixth place finisher at Beijing 2008, and also the silver medalist at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2007, won’t make his 2010 debut until Chihuahua.
“I won’t have any competitions until Chihuahua 2010. I’m just making the best workouts at Creel, Chihuahua,” said Nava, who finished fifth in Cheboksary 2008, where he also won team silver, a strong follow-up to his seventh place showing in La Coruña, Spain in 2006.
“This will be a very important competition for me and my trainer, Ruben Arikado, because we will be competing in our own town, with our people, so we have a big commitment with them to improve the result in the past World Cups.”
Joining Nava on the 50Km squad will be Jesus Sanchez, who finished eighth at 20Km and 13th at 50Km in at the World Championships last year, the only Mexican race walker who participated at both disciplines and finished in the top 15; Omar Zepeda, who finished sixth at 50Km in Helsinki; Cristian Berdeja, the World junior 10Km champion in 2000; and Leyver Ojeda.
Miguel Angel Rodriguez, a former race walker and now the president of the Organizing Committee of Chihuahua 2010, believes the host team has a strong chance to reach the podium.
“I think we have a big opportunity to see our 50km race walkers winning a medal as a team,” Rodriguez said. “Their times are close and they can make a great competition if they work together.”
Olympians lead womens’ 20Km squad
Besides Eder, there will be another representative from the Sanchez family at the World Race Walking Cup: his aunt, the Olympian Rosario Sanchez, who has 22 years experience at the highest competition level.
“I’m very proud to make the team. I felt very good in this competition even if the circuit was not so good; it is very nice for me to represent my country once again, but to be honest I really wish to see a new generation of Mexican women in race walking too, as is happening with the men,” said Rosario.
The Mexican team will be rounded out by Pan American bronze medallist Esther Sanchez; Angelica Hernandez, and Guadalupe Sanchez, the best Mexican female race walking ever.
Guadalupe Sanchez is the only Mexican woman with a top eight finish in an Olympic competition, from Sydney. Now, ten years later she wants to write some new history.
“It was very difficult for me to qualify. It has been ten years since I competed in Sydney 2000, and I have had two surgeries on my knees, so for me just make the team was a big goal. But now, I have the commitment to make a good competition, and I will go for a good place in Chihuahua.”
Monica Equihua will be on the team as well. Equihua is coached by 1997 World champion Daniel Garcia, and will have her first international competition. “This is the first time I train someone, and I feel very good to see the results of our work with this qualification,” Garcia said. “But this is just the beginning, and now, the important part is to have good preparation for next May.”
For juniors, international debuts
For the juniors who will compete over 10Km, Chihuahua 2010 represents their first international event. That’s the case for Ever Palma and Jesus Vega, who will represent Mexican race walking at the Inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore later this summer as well.
“I feel very proud,” Vega said. “I just have one year in the race walking, because before I was playing soccer, but my uncle Pedro Aroche (the 1977 Silver medalilst at the 50km in the World Race Walking Cup) invited me to train. So here I am. I never thought I would represent my country in an international competition, and this year I will do it twice!”
For Julio César Salazar, another junior team member, the Cup has added importance since Chihuahua is his hometown.
“I’m very excited because my family and my friends will see me at Chihuahua,” said Salazar, who was ninth at the World Youth Championships in Bressanone last year. “And I’m very proud because my coach, Ruben Arikado had faith in me to make the team.”
In the women’s race, the team will consist of Mariana Morales (51:19), Alejandra Ortega (51:49) and Sandra Nervaez (52:06). It is very interesting to see Ortega on this team, because she defeated Yanelli Caballero, the World youth silver medallist from Bressanone, at the National Junior Olympics in 2009.
“I’m very happy to qualify for Chihuahua, this is the first time I’ll go to an international competition,” Ortega said. “Last year I defeated Yanelli in the National Junior Olympics, even though I’m younger than her, but I think 2010 will be the most important season of my life, because I will compete in Chihuahua 2010. I’m starting my history, looking forward to Rio 2016”.
Chihuahua 2010 represents the second time that Mexico will host a Race Walking World Cup. The first time was in 1993 at Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, when Daniel Garcia won the 20Km, Carlos Mercenario won the 50Km and the Mexican team won the gold medal too.
Seventeen years later this new generation of race walkers wants to grab history with their hands, walk every step with their hearts and write new stories to tell to the Mexican crowd, and the whole world too.
Katya Lopez for the IAAF
Mexican Team –
Men - 20km Eder Sanchez Daniel Gomez Bernardo Segura Claudio Erasmo Vargas Giovanni Torres
50km Horacio Nava Jesus Sanchez Omar Zepeda Cristian Berdeja Leyver Ojeda
10km (junior) Ever Palma Jesus Vega Julio César Salazar