2005 Helsinki World Championships finalists Eder Sánchez and Omar Zepeda head the 11-member Mexican squad for the IAAF Race Walking World Cup, to be held in La Coruña, Spain, on 13-14 May.
Mexico, one of the leading nations in race walking, expects to reach at least an individual or team medal in Spain, after failing to reach the podium in the elite races of the previous World Cup in Naumburg 2004.
Sanchez, Zepeda to pace the squads
Eder Sanchez, who finished eighth in Helsinki and second in the inaugural leg of the 2006 Race Walking Challenge in Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico, is the country’s No. 1 bet for a medal in La Coruña.
The 19-year-old will be accompanied in the 20Km by 2000 World junior champion Christian Berdeja, Erick Guevara, 1997 World champion Daniel García and Gabriel Ortiz.
Omar Zepeda, sixth placer in Helsinki and second in Tlalnepantla, is the top man in the 50Km, followed by Helsinki ninth place finisher Horacio Nava, Olympian Claudio Vargas, Alvaro García and Juan Toscano.
Fabiola Godínez will the sole woman in the squad.
“The Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia are our main focus this year, but we hope to perform well and compete for the top places in La Coruña, especially in the team competitions,” said Miguel Sánchez, the national race walking director.
Eder Sánchez, Erick Guevara, Gabriel Ortíz, Horacio Nava and Juan Toscano will compete in the fourth leg of the 2006 Race Walking Challenge in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy, on 1 May.
“I feel well for both races (San Giovanni and La Coruña) and I hope to achieve a good result. Being in the top five would be ideal. I will not wear out myself as I will reach my peak at the CAC Games. Both races are 13 days apart and that is enough to recover. I just have to set a good pace and have a strong finish.” said Sanchez.
Sanchez was second in the junior 10Km at his World Cup debut in Naumburg. He led Mexico to win the team contest.
“Travelling to Italy and Spain in advance will enable us to get used to the time zone, the weather, to study the course and determine the race tactics,” he added.
In Naumburg, Gabriel Ortiz, 19th in the 20Km, was the only Mexican in the top-20. The men’s 20Km finished 15th and the junior women were 13th in the team competition.
The top two Mexicans in the 20Km and 50Km races will represent the country at the 20th CAC Games in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, 15-30 July, considering they meet the National Federation standards: 1:22 and 1:36 for men and women in 20Km, and 4:03 for 50Km.
Strong history for Mexico
Mexico has been one of the main protagonists of the IAAF Race Walking World Cup since the 1970s. In total, the nation has collected 14 individual medals in the men’s 20Km (6 gold, 4 silver and three bronze), plus four more medals (1-1-2) in the team contest. They have also added six nine more medals (6-2-1) and two team titles in the 50Km. The country also claimed four Lugano Trophies, discontinued after 1997.
Veteran Graciela Mendoza, who was second at the 1991 World Cup in San Jose (USA), has been the only individual female medallist. Women also clinched two team bronzes in 1991 and 1999. Mexico hosted the 16th World Cup in Monterrey, in 1993.
Multi-medallists include Raul Gonzalez (three wins), Carlos Mercenario (three), Daniel Bautista (two), Martin Bermudez, Ernesto Canto, Daniel Garcia and Bernardo Segura, with one crown each. Mercenario has been the only man to win both the 20km and 50km races, dominating the shorter distance in 1987 and the longer in 1991 and 1993. The country’s last World Cup senior medal was won by Alejandro López, third at the 20Km in 2002.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF