Men's La Coruna podium - Hatem Ghoula, Eric Tysse and Joao Vieira (Luis Francisco Fiaño) © Copyright
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Platzer, Tysse take Norwegian sweep in La Coruña – IAAF Race Walking Challenge

Platzer, Tysse take Norwegian sweep in La Coruña – IAAF Race Walking Challenge

8 June 2008 - La Coruña, Spain – Norway’s Eric Tysse notched an overwhelming victory in the men’s 20km to highlight the “Gran Premio Cantones de marcha” – the Spanish leg in 2008 IAAF Race Walking Challenge held Saturday afternoon on a nice day but also with cold wind.

The 27-year-old Eric Tysse clocked 1:19.21 and built a massive 2:31 advantage over his pursuers, while Tysse’s older sister Kjersti Plätzer secured a Norwegian double as she broke away from Germany’s Sabine Zimmer inside the last kilometre. Yesterday’s marked the second double victory for the Norwegian athletes as they also were successful at the second leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge held in Rio Maior (Portugal) last 5 April.

Tysse and Ghoula carve out race

Over the 1km-long flat circuit, the men’s contest soon became a two-horse fight between Tysse and the reigning World bronze medallist Hatem Ghoula of Tunisia. They cruised the 5km point in a not particularly quick split of 20:02 to build a huge 35-second margin over a hefty chase group which included the Portuguese pair of Joao and Sergio Vieira plus Russia’s former (1999) World champion Ilya Markov.

By halfway (39:47), Tysse and Ghoula kept their advantage over the pursuers while Markov was disqualified soon afterwards. The decisive movement came in the 12th kilometre when the Norwegian pulled away from Ghoula and by the 15km point no less than 100m separated them. Reportedly, Ghoula suffered from breathing difficulties - just on the day of his 35th birthday – and could not live with Tysse’s pace.

The closing 5000m section witnessed a magnificent display by Tysse, who romped home absolutely unchallenged (negative splits of 45:42 and 43:56! for the two halves) as his winning margin of 2:31 clearly indicates. The battle for the runner-up place was dramatic in the final stages. Despite Ghoula having built a 1:50 margin on Joao and Sergio Vieira with five kilometres remaining, they were about to catch the fading Tunisian in a thrilling final kilometre. Finally, Ghoula prevailed in the battle for second timed at 1:21:52 (a very slow 21:53 for the last 5km) four seconds ahead of European bronze medallist Joao Vieira, himself two seconds clear of countryman Sergio Vieira, fourth in 1:21:58.

Tysse, who raised to the top spot of the IAAF Walking Race Challenge thanks to an overall score of 41 points said: “I’m delighted with my second international win this season. In addition, I only missed my National Record by 10 seconds. The contest was even until the 12th as Ghoula and myself shared the lead taking turns, but when I left him everything was easy for me and had a comfortable success” Next up for Tysse are the Norwegian championships next weekend, after which he’ll be off Saint Moritz for a stint of altitude training.

Asked on his Olympic expectations, the 1.86-tall Tysse clarified: “I’ll try to make the double 20 & 50km Walk Race but my main focus will be the shorter distance, where I’ll fight to the death to get something great; that would let me to go out also in the 50km and take it easy.” Tysse already made the 20 & 50km double at last’s year Worlds in Osaka, with eighth and fifth places showings, respectively.

Plätzer sprint away from Zimmer

The women’s event opened very cautiously and by the 5th  kilometre point a triumvirate comprising reigning Olympic champion Athanasia Tsoumeleka of Greece, Portugal’s Ines Henriques and Ireland’s Olive Loughnane took command of the race building an 11-second gap over the hot favourite Plätzer and Zimmer. But their leadership was to be short-lived and they all went through the halfway in 45:42. The Norwegian then injected a brisker pace which only Zimmer was able to resist and both had opened a handsome margin of 22 seconds on Tsoumeleka with 5km to go.

Plätzer made most of the pace but the German walked at her shoulder and they entered the final 1000m with winning chances. The key moment came 500m from the end when the experienced Plätzer found another gear and left Zimmer two seconds adrift in a matter of few strides to romp home in 1:29:38 to the German’s 1:29:40 clocking while Tsoumeleka secured the minor place on the podium over one minute behind (1:30:44) holding off the challenge of Henriques, who had to settle for fourth in 1:31:06.

An ecstatic Plätzer commented, “This second double for my brother and me makes me extremely happy. Today’s is my fourth win at the Challenge and I keep the top spot; I know that these results are creating great hopes in my country thinking of the Olympics but I’m ready to bear the burden of responsibility in Beijing. My next stop will be next weekend’s 10km on the track at the Nationals and a training camp in Saint Moritz where I’ll be lucky to join some mates such as Zimmer, the Portuguese, the Australians…their company will make much easier the daily routine as training on your own it’s a bit boring”.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF