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Preview Paris, France

Event Preview 50km Walk

Can anyone break Robert KORZENIOWSKI’s stranglehold over the 50km walk? The Pole has reigned supreme over the discipline for years and collects titles for fun. His medal crop began in 1996 with a first Olympic title, followed four years later at Sydney with a double 20-50 km haul that no athlete had ever previously accomplished. There’s been no shortage of world titles either: after a bronze medal in 1995 at Gothenburg, he walked away with the gold in 1997 at Athens and again at Edmonton in 2001.

Now 35, KORZENIOWSKI has chosen not to attempt the same double feat at Paris Saint-Denis that he pulled off at Sydney, preferring instead to focus on the 50km. But if his rivals were hoping to spot signs of wear after so many years at the peak of his powers, they are set to be hugely disappointed. The man who has decided to bow out of competition after the Athens Olympics was crowned European champion in August 2002 on the track at Munich, breaking the world record in the process with a time of 3:36:39. Having been based in northern France for a number of years, he will also have the advantage of being “at home” in the Stade de France.

That will not stop his rivals from waiting to pounce on any weakness. Spain’s Mikel ODRIOZOLA will be nursing genuine golden ambitions after recording the best time in the world this year back in February, with 3:42:03. And while fellow Spaniard Jesus Angel GARCIA lies just seventh in the current world list, he is no stranger to international podiums. World champion in 1993 at Stuttgart, he has been subsequently forced to live in the shadows of KORZENIOWSKI, who beat him into second place at the Athens and Edmonton World Championships.

The Russian team boasts three athletes capable of having a say in the outcome of the event: Denis NIZHEGORODOV, this year’s Russian champion and holder of the season’s second best time with 3:43:27, Aleksey VOYEVODIN, European silver medallist at Munich and German SKURYGIN, stripped of his world title in Seville in 1999 for a doping infringement, and who raced to victory at this season’s European Cup in 3:47:50.

The German Andreas Erm, credited with the third best time this season (3:43:53) along with China’s Chinois Chaohong YU and Yinhang WANG are also worth watching carefully.