Eder Sanchez leads a 13 member Mexican contingent for the 23rd IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary, Russia, 10-11 May, hoping to bring the first medal for the country in this biennial event since 2002.
Sanchez, 21, won the inaugural leg of the 2008 IAAF Race Walking Challenge in front of his home crowd in Chihuahua, in March, followed by a third place finish on the Olympic course Beijing, a month later.
The 2007 Osaka fourth place finisher completed a training camp in Spain and arrived in Cheboksary well in advance to adapt to the weather conditions in the Russian city, 600km from Moscow.
Apart from the Olympic qualification, Sanchez wants more and sees his country on the 20km podium, especially since Mexico will host the 2010 World Cup.
Alejandro Lopez was the last Mexican to win a medal when third in 2002.
Sanchez already savoured a medal in the World Cup as he was second in the 10km junior race in 2004.
Gabriel Ortiz, Pedro Gómez, David Mejía and Alvaro García make up the 20km team. At only 17, Gomez has been the revelation, is just over a minute from the Olympic mark, with 1:24:11.
Rosario Sánchez, fifth in Chihuahua, 1991 World Cup runner-up Graciela Mendoza and María Esther Sánchez make up the women’s squad.
Mexico also has high hopes in the longer men’s distance of 50km.
Horacio Nava, sixth at the 2006 World Cup, feels confident after a two-week training camp in Romania.
“I am getting more mature, stronger every time I start a 50km race. I hope to gradually improve my time (3:48:22) and qualify to the Olympics”, commented the 2007 Pan American Games silver medallist.
Jesús Sánchez, the 50km winner in the first leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge, 1997 20km World champion Daniel García, 2005 Helsinki World Championships sixth place finisher Omar Zepeda and Mario Iván Flores hope their performances this weekend will grant them a place in the Olympic team.
Race Walking has given nine Olympic medals to Mexico since 1968. In the 47-year history of the World Cup, the country boasts a more extensive pedigree with 23 medals (12 gold, seven silver and four bronze), as well as seven team crowns. Of this collection, men have won six titles in both distances.
Graciela Mendoza is the only female individual medallist when second in 1991. At 44, the tiny athlete will start the 20km on Sunday representing the red, white and green colours once again.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF