IAAF President Lamine Diack hosted the traditional pre-event press conference in the Naumburg Haus this afternoon.
Three-time Olympic and reigning 50km World champion and World Record holder Robert Korzeniowski (POL), 20km World champion and defending World Race Walking Cup champion Jefferson Perez (ECU), World silver medallist Gillian O’Sullivan (IRL), 2004 World Race Walking Challenge leader Elisa Rigaudo (ITA) and 2003 World Championships’ 50km bronze medallist Andreas Erm (GER) were present.
“The World Race Walking Cup is indeed the one event I have never won. Not only did I never win but I have never even medalled as I finished fourth twice. Therefore I have a very strong motivation to do well on Sunday. This will be my last World Race Walking Cup and I really want to perform well.
I have a lot of respect for all my opponents, especially Jefferson Perez and Andreas Erm, but this will be my last chance of winning a medal in this competition so I don’t want to miss it.
Also, I want to say that the 20km (the race he will contest on Sunday) is a very big challenge for me. I am considered as a 50km specialist but I don’t want to be just that. I want to show everyone what I can do on the 20km which is definitely a very difficult challenge for me and was the much harder part of my double in Paris last year.
I don’t think I will double in Athens. I will only focus on the 50km. I am a very reasonable pre-retired athlete now! I don’t think I will be able to recover from the 20km race in time to be 100% for the 50km. And also the climate will play a big role. I remember running the Athens World Championships in 1997 with a temperature of 44 degrees. And I think this says it all.”
“People say that my win in Turin 2002 was a surprise but I had won the Olympic Games (in 1996) so maybe the surprise was that I won it after I had retired for 12 months. What happened is that although I had decided to retire after finishing 4th at the Sydney Olympics too many things in my head were not right. For 12 months I didn’t do anything and I just started four to five months before the Turin World Cup to realise that I wanted to try once again.
I realised that Race Walking is not just about medals and records, race walking gives me a big opportunity to represent my family, my country and my people.
And the day after the Turin race I decided I wanted to continue and compete in Athens 2004. I remember I began Track and Field in 1998 and at the time I remember watching a commercial for the Olympics which said ‘You can be the best in the world’. And ever since I have been thinking about this: that I can be the best in the world.
Things are clear in my head now. I want to compete because when I do I feel at peace. I know there are a lot of very good walkers like Robert Korzeniowski but I want to try and be the best in the world. I don’t know if I will be but for sure I will try. Race walking is a big family just like track and field and the IAAF and I feel blessed to be part of it. I will definitely try and continue for another 3 years and then I will focus on my business and social interests.”
“I believe the IAAF World Race Walking Challenge is a great initiative. It’s a very good circuit with all the best athletes in the world. The standard of organisation and the competition is very good in all the competitions of the challenge and it makes the challenge the more valuable to us athletes. It’s an excellent way for race walking to be recognised world wide.
It’s fantastic to read about the challenge regularly on the IAAF website and this definitely helps to promote race walking world wide.
I rate this World Cup very highly. It has the very best field ever in the IAAF circuit and I am really looking forward to this new challenge on Sunday. It will set me up well for the Games in Athens.”
“2004 has definitely been great so far for me with two wins in two races in the IAAF World Race Walking Challenge. Although I have been training very hard I didn’t expect to win both events in Mexico and Portugal. Obviously this year is more important as it is an Olympic year.
I am very motivated to do well on Sunday but this event is important to me mostly as a way to gain experience in view of Athens. I am a young walker (23 years-old) and I need to walk a lot of kilometres in order to develop my full potential as an athlete.
I feel very fortunate to live in Italy and especially near Cuneo, an area where Race walking has a great tradition thanks to Maurizio and Giorgio Damilano and their brother Sandro who is also my coach.
I hope I will perform well on Sunday for myself but also to keep the Italian walking tradition alive.
It's four years since he set his best time of 1:18:42 for the distance.
"I'm unsure about whether I can beat that time, especially on this course. My training has been going well, but not quite as well as at that time. I'll try"
Andreas was also unsure about whether he will attempt to both the 50km and 20km races in Athens, but was clearly grateful for the renewed success achieved in his partnership with his relatively new coach.
"I'm sorry my dad had to give up coaching me due to ill health - but I'm glad I now have Ron Weigel coaching me - he was a hero on TV for me as a boy!"