Polish race walker Rafal Augustyn retruned to one of his favourite circuits and won the 50km event at the 33rd edition of the Dudinska patdesiatka in the south of Slovakia, part of the 2014 IAAF Race Walking Challenge, in a personal best of 3:45:32 on Saturday (22).
It was a 1:24 improvement on his previous best, set three years ago at the same event, but he has already experienced being a winner here as he took the 50km in 2010 and has competed in Dudince every year since 2009.
“It was definitely a tough race and I had to empty my stomach a couple of times but, still, it was easier than in 2010,” said Augustyn.
“I am glad to win again here in Dudince and even more because I managed to improve my best time," he added. "Now I am ready to fight for my team spot at the European Championships in August. Two team spots are already occupied, just one more is left, so I hope I will make it to Zurich."
In sunny weather and warm conditions with temperatures about 20C, second place went to China’s former Asian junior champion Wang Zhendong in 3:47:18 and Germany’s Carl Dohmann was third in 3:51:32. Both men also set personal bests, as did Lithuania’s Tadas Suskevicius in fourth place with 3:51:58.
Augustyn and South Africa’s Marc Mundell set the early place and passed 10km in 45:41, 35 seconds ahead of the Polish pair of Adrian Blocki and Rafal Sikora.
Mundell continued to do most of the work at the front and at 20km, which was reached in 1:30:44, the gap over Sikora, who had now edged away from his compatriot, was 1:05.
The advantage between the leading pair and the best of the rest continued to grow. Mundell and Sikora reached the halfway point in 1:53:05 with Sikora now 1:36 in arrears.
Just before 30km, Augustyn shook off his South African shadow and went through that checkpoint in 2:15:31, with Mundell now five seconds behind in his slipstream. By this point, Blocki had caught up again with Sikora but was more than two minutes behind in 2:17:47.
Shortly after 30km, Mundell decided to drop out. Augustyn continued to hold his poise and was never challenged for the rest of the race.
Behind him though, the rest of the podium places changed hands several times.
Blocki started to move away from Sikora in the 34th kilometre but then Suskevicius started to come through strongly. By 40km, which Augustyn had passed in 3:00:20, he had overtaken both Poles and was lying second, albeit more than four minutes behind the leader.
From 40km onwards, Wang and Dohmann also started to motor. Having been fifth and sixth at 35km, Wang overtook the Lithuanian at 42km while Dohmann, still fifth at 48km, had a blistering last two kilometres to overtake both Suskevicius and Blocki to grab third place.
From the 48 starters, 32 men finished the race.
In the 20km race, local star Matej Toth achieved a win in Dudince for the fifth consecutive time with a personal best of 1:19:48.
There was a yawning gap of 2:57 between Toth and Australia’s second-placed triple Olympic medallist Jared Tallent.
The 31-year-old Slovak from the Banska Bystrica Sports Army Club, the 50km winner at the 2010 IAAF World Race Walking Cup, achieved the first sub-1:20 of his career. Toth went to the front in the seventh kilometre and was never headed
He sped up between the 10th and 15th kilometre, to make his goal of breaking the 1:20 barrier a realistic one.
“Going sub-1:20 was just a matter of time and I am very happy that it happened right here in Dudince, where my whole family were watching it,” said a happy Toth.
“In fact, I was not focusing on time especially but on a good placement today. When I felt that the pace was slowing down on fourth kilometre, I tried to go to the front and push the group,” he added, after improving his personal best from last year by 26 seconds.
In the women's 20km race, Spain’s Ainhoa Pinedo was the best in 1:34:56 ahead of local competitor Maria Galikova, who was second in 1:36:39.
Overall, 237 race walkers from 23 countries participated in Dudince this year.
Zuzana Trojakova for the IAAF