16 MAY 2010 Report

Palmisano gambles and wins - Women's Junior race report

Antonella Palmisano of Italy leading the pack in the women's junior race in Chihuahua (Getty Images)Antonella Palmisano of Italy leading the pack in the women's junior race in Chihuahua (Getty Images) © Copyright

There’s a small town in the south of Italy that will be downing a bottle of wine or two this evening.

Antonella Palmisano is the toast of Montella in the south of Italy, after the 18-year-old broke the six-year stranglehold Russia had on the junior women’s 10km.

First time gold escapes Russian juniors

The graphics student gambled on the third of five laps in the heat - and when no-one could close the tiny gap she forged, the Italian had just enough to make her country’s weekend turn from disappointment into joy in just under 48 minutes.

In the past the junior women’s 10km was over after the minute it took the Russian trio to break clear of the rest.

No such dramatic moves this time. In fact, for the first kilometre in well over five minutes, there wasn’t a red vest in the first six.

The same busloads of teenagers that cheered the junior men on Saturday night were back for Sunday morning’s race, and of course, every time a Mexican name was mentioned - which was frequently - the chorus of approving screams cut the morning air.

Sandra Nevarez was showing at the front for the host nation and helped to raise the decibel level. But only a handful had dropped off the back end when the group hit the 2km mark in a labouring 10:04.

Second time around the leaders were down to 11 even though the pace was to the second the same as the first lap.

Italian press in the media tribune had been starved of any decent stories after Olympic champion Alex Schwazer pulled out of the 50km on Thursday.

But when Palmisano got a metre ahead on lap three - fingers got tapping on keyboards.

The 18-year-old had the fourth fastest time of the start list, but ominously for Italian hopes the Russians who had the first three, were looking very comfortable in the group right behind.

Nevarez was the casualty as eight went through 6km in 29:53, and when Palmisano decided she had hung around too long, the only ones left in her wake were the three Russians and two Chinese.

Chinese take team gold ahead of Russia and Italy

By the bell, the Italian had made the difference into seven seconds for the fastest 2km so far. The two chasers had also gone solo with Qin He and Anna Lukyanova carrying Russian hopes.

Over the last 500 metres the Italian was digging deep, with He making only the slightest impression.

But all three faces displayed the pain of walking in sun and wind - and when an Italian flag was thrust into Palmisano’s hands yards from the finish, joy was unconfined in the press tribune and among the Italian team by the finish.

He’s efforts along with Jing Zhao in fourth was enough for the team gold - although the latter had two DQ cards by her name for the last lap.

Russia was second with Lukyanova taking bronze, and Palmisano picked up a second medal when Italy got team bronze.

Paul Warburton for the IAAF