Spain’s Francisco Javier Fernandez, reigning European 20 km champion and 2006 IAAF World Cup winner, and 2008 Olympic silver medallist Kjersti Plätzer cruised to outstanding wins in the 52nd edition of the Coppa Città di Sesto San Giovanni, the fourth leg of the IAAF World Walking Challenge 2009.
Men’s race -
Fernandez, who is coached by Polish walking legend Robert Korzeniowski, won the Coppa Città di Sesto for the third time in his career after his previous two victories in 2003 and 2005. It was an impressive win for Fernandez who clocked 1:19:57 to beat Norway’s Erik Tysse (younger brother of Kjersti Tysse Plätzer), second in 1:21:53 and Portugal’s Joao Vieira, third in 1:23:15. Jesus Sanchez from Mexico (1:23:21) and the first Italian Giorgio Rubino (1:23:42) rounded out the top five.
Brugnetti went to the front with Fernandez, Tysse and Rubino forming the leading pack. Sanchez and Olympic 50 km champion Alex Schwazer from Italy formed the chasing group.
Fernandez, Tysse and Brugnetti made up the leading trio dropping Rubino. They passed the 5 km in 20:12 carving out a gap of 42 seconds on Sanchez and Rubino, who was second in Rio Major in April with his PB of 1:19:37 (the third fastest time in history in Italy in the 20 km).
To the disappointment of home fans along the course of the Northern Italian town, local favourite Brugnetti was forced to drop out at 6 km due to stomach problems after leading the race with Fernandez and Tysse in the early stages.
The race developed into a battle between Fernandez and Tysse who increased their pace on Sanchez to 45 seconds at 8 km. At 9 km Fernandez began pushing the pace and broke away from Tysse by 10 seconds. With a 5 km split between 5 and 10 km in 20:03 Fernandez went through the halfway mark in 40:15. The Spaniard continued to increase his gap on Tysse to 18 seconds at 12 km. Sanchez was in third place followed by a chasing group formed by Italians Schwazer, Rubino and Viera.
Fernandez walked at a faster pace in the second half clocking the 15 km in 1:00:50 with a quicker split between 10 and 15 km in 19:50 increasing his margin to 45 seconds on Tysse who had to settle with second place. Sanchez followed in third place in 1:02:30, six seconds ahead of Rubino and Vieira.
Fernandez finished strongly in the final 5 km securing the win in 1:19:57 beating Tysse by 1:56.
“The conditions were perfect. It was not too warm,” said Fernandez. “I walked very easily in the first half before increasing the pace in the second half. It was my first competitions after three weeks of training in South Africa. I have not decided yet whether to compete in the 20 km or in the 50 km in Berlin. I have two more competitions in Madrid and Krakow before a second period at altitude.”
Tysse, winner in Sesto in 2007 and third in 2006 and 2008, finished on the podium for the fourth time. “When you are on the podium, it is always a good result,” Tysse said. “I tried to push Fernandez in the first half but I had a minor problem. My coach told me to relax and secure the second place. Fernandez was very strong today. There is always a good atmosphere in Sesto. I have now two more competitions in Krakow and La Coruna before a training period in St. Moritz.”
Women’s race -
Norway’s Olympic silver medallist Kjersti Plätzer won the 20 km walking race which celebrated the 30th anniversary of the women’s walking race at the Coppa Città di Sesto San Giovanni. Plätzer scored her third win in Sesto adding it to her previous victories in 2002 and 2008. It was the eighth time the Norwegian went to the podium in this race. She backed up her lead in the IAAF Walking Challenge with her third win which followed Chihuahua and Rio Major.
Plätzer crossed the finish-line in 1:28:50, her seasonal best. Sabine Zimmer Krantz from Germany finished second thirteen seconds behind in 1:29:03 holding off Italian Olympic bronze medallist Elisa Rigaudo by just one second in a close finish in the final straight on the track of the Pino Dordoni Stadium, named after the legendary 1952 Olympic champion Pino Dordoni. .
Plätzer and Krantz took the early lead from the beginning going through the first 5 km mark in 22:33, one second faster than Rigaudo.
The leading duo formed by Plätzer and Krantz increased their lead over Rigaudo and Portugal’s Vera Santos to 8 seconds shortly before the 8 km mark and then continued to increase their pace to 12 seconds at halfway going through the 10 km in 44:27 with a 5 km split between 5 km to 10 km clocked in 21:51. Rigaudo clocked 22:10 between 5 and 10 km passing the 10 km in 44:44.
Clocking 8:47 between 10 km to 12 km Plätzer and Krantz carved out a gap of 20 seconds over Rigaudo.
The leading duo clocked 1:06:32 at 15 km (clocking the 10-15 km split between 22:04) keeping the same margin over the Italian walking star who went through the 15 km in 1:06:53.
Plätzer broke away from Krantz with 2 km to go with a gap of 10 seconds over the german walker and 25 seconds over Rigaudo.
Rigaudo, the 2004 IAAF Walking Challenge winner, managed to close her gap over Krantz in the final two kilometres and nearly caught the German shortly before the entrance into the stadium. Krantz managed to defend her second place from the final attack launched by Rigaudo in a hard-fought battle for the runner-up spot.
Plätzer was delighted with her second win in a row in Sesto. “I was tired but I tried to remain focused on my technique,” said Plätzer, who will retire at the end of this year. “Sesto is a special race for me. It celebrates the 30th anniversary of women’s walking race and this is my 30th anniversary as a race walker. I started walking at the age of eight in 1980. My international career started with the European Junior Championships in Cottbus in Germany. My first European Championships as a senior were in Stuttgart in 1986 and I made my debut at the World Championships in 1993 in Stuttgart. I will end my career in Germany at the World Championships in Berlin. It’s time to end my career. I have a job at Adecco and I have two children.”
Krantz met the qualifying standard for the IAAF World Championships in Berlin with 1:29:03.
“It was a super performance,” Krantz said. “The German Federation required 1:31 to qualify for Berlin. I was forced to drop out of the race in Rio Major. I cannot describe how important the World Championships on home soil are for me. There I expect strong support from the local people.”
Rigaudo confirmed her recent good form after the third place in Chihuahua and her PB in the 10 km in Pescara.
“I expected to clock 1:30 and I finish the race in 1:29,” Rigaudo said. “It’s a good time. My goal was to perform a consistent race. If I had followed the pace set by Plätzer and Krantz, I could have produced a faster time but I am happy with my result. My next race will be in Krakow. Then I will train in Livigno with my training partners Alex Schwazer and Giorgio Rubino from 1 to 21 July to prepare for Berlin.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Leading Results -
Men’s 20 km race:
1 Francisco Fernandez (Spain) 1:19:57
2 Erik Tysse (Norway) 1:21:53
3 Joao Vieira (Portugal) 1:23:15
4 Jesus Sanchez Gonzales (Mexico) 1:23:21
5 Giorgio Rubino (Italy) 1:23:42
6 André Höhne (Germany) 1:23:56
7 Alex Schwazer (Italy) 1:24:23
8 Trond Nymark (Norway) 1:25:18
9 Alejandro Cambil (Spain) 1:25:36
10 Jarkko Kinnunen (Finland) 1:25:49
Women’s 20 km race:
1 Kjersti Plätzer (Norway) 1:28:50
2 Sabine Krantz (Germany) 1:29:03
3 Elisa Rigaudo (Italy) 1:29:04
4 Vera Santos (Portugal) 1:29:27
5 Beatriz Pasqual (Spain) 1:29:54
6 Claudia Stef (Romania) 1:31:53
7 Kumi Othoshi (Japan) 1:31:57
8 Masumi Fuchise (Japan) 1:32:45
9 Ana Maria Groza (Romania) 1.33:56
10 Zuzana Schindlerova (Czech Republic) 1:35:33