Rio Maior, PortugalWith a strong “sprint” to the finish line, Kjersti Platzer notched a dramatic 20 km victory over local heroine Susana Feitor to highlight the 7th edition of the Rio Maior Walking Grande Prix, the second leg in 2008 IAAF Race Walking Challenge. Erik Tysse won the men’s 20km race to secure a double victory for Norway.
Feitor sets the pace
In the women’s event, the most dramatic, Feitor produced a great race, taking to the front early one, with Platzer and other competitors, including 2004 Olympic 20Km champion Athanasia Tsoumeleka of Greece, but in the middle of the contest it was Platzer who took control. The Norwegian, the runner-up here last year and the winner in Chihuahua a month ago, produced a brillian closing effort in the final metres to secure the victory from the Portuguese by two seconds in 1:29:29. The crowd favourite Feitor, the 2005 World championships bronze medallist and multiple winner here, was forced to settle for second.
Knowing the strong credentials of the Portuguese, Platzer, soon after crossing the finish line, joined Feitor and said, “Sorry!”
With a magnificent smile, Feitor congratulated the winner and said, “Kjersti is a great lady and a strong athlete. I tried to win in my country’s town, I did all the things I could in the competition, but I knew she is very strong. She was best and we most congratulate her effort.”
Following the pair was another Portuguese, the 23-year-old Ana Cabecinha, who established a personal best of 1:29:56, under Portugal’s Olympic qualifying standard.
Reigning Olympic champion Tsoumeleka finished fourth in 1:30:00, with German Sabine Zimmer fifth.
Australia’s Jane Saville, the bronze medalist in the 2004 Olympic Games, and third in Rio Maior in 2005 and 2006, was only 11th (1.32.50).
Surprise in men’s contest
In the walking capital of Portugal, Rio Maior (the birthplace of the major athletes in the country), the favorite Jefferson Perez of Ecuador was not as strong as all had expected. Making a race with his compatriot Rolando Saquipay, Jefferson was in the in the front, but in the final turns, another walker – today was indeed Norway’s day! - Erik Tysse produced an exceptional race to win with a near personal best of 1:19:38. 15 seconds back was Spain’s Juan Molina – fifth at the Athens Olympics and second here in 2003 – with Germany’s André Hohne third in 1:20:19, just 19 second shy of his career best.
Tysse jubilantly celebrated his finish, with all the joy the sport can give to the champions.
Then arrived the South America contingent, with Saquipay and Perez fifth and sixth, ahead of Colombia’s Luis Fernando Lopez and Brazilian Jose Bagio.
The Russian Ilya Markov was disqualified, and Italians Alessandro Gandellini and Alex Schwazer did not finish.
Antonio Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
Leading Results -
Men (20 Km):
1. Erik Tysse (NOR) 1.19.51
2. Juan Manuel Molina (ESP) 1.20.06
3. André Höhne (GER) 1.20.19
4. Rolando Saquipay (ECU) 1.20.52
5. Jefferson Pérez (ECU) 1.21.21
6. Luis Fernando López (COL) 1.22.35
7. José Alessandro Bagio (BRA) 1.22.56
8. James Rendon (COL) 1.23.49
9. Sérgio Vieira (POR) 1.24.10
10. Rafael Duarte (BRA) 1.24.13
Women (20 Km):
1 Kjersti Plätzer (NOR) 1.29.29
2 Susana Feitor (POR) 1.29.31
3 Ana Cabecinha (POR) 1.29.56
4 Athanasía Tsoumeléka (GRE) 1.30.00
5 Sabine Zimmer (GER) 1.30.41
6 Olive Loughnane (IRL) 1.30.51
7 Vera Santos (POR) 1.30.52
8 Sonata Milusauskayté (LTU ) 1.31.39
9 Inês Henriques (POR) 1.32.22
10 Kristina Saltanovic (LTU) 1.32.25