Mark Butler takes a look at the weekend's races and gives his predictions of their outcome.
Turin could well provide a golden opportunity for 36 year-old Vladimir Andreyev after his bronze in Sydney and silver in Munich. The European Champion and holder of the world best – Spain’s Francisco Fernández – is absent and Andreyev ought to move up from his third place in Médizon. Since his European silver, Andreyev was also second in the World Military Championships. In fact he has placed second in all four of his races this year. Andreyev will have strong backing from a Russian team which will be seeking a third successive victory.
Returning to the squad will be World Champion Roman Rasskazov who is actually the slowest this year of the five Russian selections. Italy also field a (former) World Champion, the 1995 version Michele Didoni, who was disqualified in Munich. Their fastest man, the Finnish-born Marco Giungi dropped out of the Munich 50K but has won all three of his races since then over shorter distances. Mexico and China each have powerful and youthful teams while Belarus have two from the top six finishers in Munich.
Away from the top contenders, it will be interesting to see how the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iran fare; this will be their first entry in the cup with teams or even individuals.
Walking superstar Robert Korzeniowski has never won a World Cup walk, and he will not do so in Turin because he felt he was not 100% fit and has decided to end his season. However, he will be at the event to support the Poles, whose star performer will be radio broadcaster Tomasz Lipiec, second in 1999 and Korzeniowski's own sister, who is competing in the women's race. Lipiec was disqualified in Munich, and another Munich casualty, Aigars Fadejevs, might be the man to beat in Turin. The Olympic silver medallist subsequently won in Hildesheim over 20K, then beat a strong field at the World Military Championships at 10,000m.
Russia again have a strong quintet and – as in the 20K – will be
bidding for a third successive team win. Their number one is likely to be Aleksey Voyevodin, second to Korzeniowski in Munich with a personal best. He is accompanied by the controversial German
Skurygin and two exciting 22 year-olds, Potemin and Yudin. At the other end of the scale, at 49 years Fabio Ruzzier of Slovenia will the oldest contestant of the weekend.
In Mézidon 1999, China beat Russia by just three points. In Turin 2002, it will be a major shock if they do not regain the team trophy with a much greater winning margin. Olympiada Ivanova is back to her very best, winning the European title in Munich with the fastest ever time at a major championship and no warnings. Ivanova– who is also a black belt in judo – had earlier placed only fourth in the Russian Championships, and the three women who beat her then are all in Russia’s Turin team.
In fact the squad comprises five of the six fastest women in 2002, the other being another Russian who was not selected !
The Chinese are having a low-key year and have not even chosen their three quickest women this season. If any team can pressurise the Russians, it should be Italy, champions in 1993 and runners-up twice since then. They are led by European bronze medallist Erica Alfridi who has the fastest non-Russian time of the year. Munich fourth-placer Gillian O’Sullivan can be expected to place highly again, though Ireland do not have a full team for backup. Mexico and Romania will also be looking for team honours.