Ivano Brugnetti of Italy wins in Rio Maior (Marcelino Alemeida) © Copyright
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Brugnetti takes on Chinese challenge for 50th edition of Sesto San Giovanni - IAAF Race Walking Challenge

Sesto San Giovanni is set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its popular race walking Coppa Città di Sesto San Giovanni which is the fourth leg of the 2007 IAAF Walking Challenge.

Reigning 20km Olympic champion Ivano Brugnetti will be in the spotlight in the traditional 1 May race after his recent return to winning ways in the Portuguese leg of the circuit in Rio Major on 14 April where he broke the tape in first place in 1:20:21.

Rio Major’s win represented a great return to form for Brugnetti who opened his 2007 season with an impressive Italian 5km indoor record during the Italian Indoor Championships in Ancona where he clocked 18:08.96 narrowly missing Michail Schemnikov’s World best (18:07:08 set in 1995).

In mid-March Brugnetti’s confidence was boosted by the birth of his first daughter Vittoria.

Before his win in Rio Major Brugnetti took part in the Chinese leg of the IAAF Challenge in Shenzhen where he suffered from gastritis after being in the leading pack until 10km and finished back in 26th position.

The Italian showed that Shenzhen was only a “bad day at work” when he took the honours in Rio Major beating Australia’s Luke Adams (1:20:50) and Norway’s Erik Tysse (1:20:56) in a hot and windy day.

Brugnetti backed up the Rio Major win with another win over the 5km distance in San Pietro di Clarenza where he crossed the finish-line in 19:30 showing that he is ready for the re-match against Adams and Tysse in front of his home crowd in Sesto where he trains every day.

Strong Chinese squad

China has sent a strong contingent to Sesto San Giovanni which will be an important chance to compete in Europe in the build-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Bejing. The Chinese team will be led by Lu Ronghua, who finished fourth in Schenzhen with 1:20:16. Other Chinese athletes who finished in the top-ten in Schenzhen making the trip to Italy will be Wei Yang (eighth) and Zeng Guoqiang (ninth). 

Joao Vieira from Portugal, European bronze medallist in Gothenburg last year is the other top European name in the men’s line-up.

Defending champion Turava leads women’s field

As in the men’s race the women’s competition features a re-match of the Rio Major meeting which saw last year’s European champion Ryta Turava from Belarus winning ahead of Norway’s Kjersti Plätzer.

Turava, who won the last two editions of the Sesto race, clocked a 1:28:01 World season best in Rio Major in her first competition of the year. For the Turava family last year’s European Championships in Gothenburg marked a great weekend which featured two gold medals for both sisters Ryta (20km race walk) and Alesya (3000m Steeplechase).

Kjersti Tysse Plätzer, older sister of Erik Tysse, made a remarkable comeback last year after giving birth to her second child finishing fourth in the European Championships in Gothenburg. The Norweagian star, Olympic silver medallist in Sydney 2000, is currently leading the IAAF Challenge Ranking after her win in Naucalpan (Mexico) and her runner-up spot in Rio Major. Second in the Overall Standing is Australia’s Jane Saville (third in Naucalpan and sixth in Rio Major) who will also line up in Sesto San Giovanni.

Rigaudo still uncertain

European Championships bronze medallist Elisa Rigaudo from Italy (fifth in Rio Major) is in the mid of a period of hard training ahead of the European Cup according to what her coach Sandro Damilano said and will decide on the eve of the race whether to compete in Sesto San Giovanni.

Rigaudo won her first 20km race of the season in Lugano on 1 April and finished fifth in Rio Major in her season best of 1:30:42. 

The Chinese will set their hopes on four walkers who finished in the top six on home turf in Schenzhen: Jiang Jing (third), Qiuyan (fourth), Shi Na (fifth) and Song Hongjuan (sixth). 

The German challenge will be led by Melanie Seeger and Sabine Zimmer, who finished respectively in third and fourth place in Rio Major.

Other leading contenders should be 2005 World broze medallist Susanna Feitor of Portugal and Elena Ginko of Belarus (second in Naucalpan this year). 

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sesto race the organizers launched a series of initiatives like a very interesting photo exhibition organized by former international walking racer Raffaello Ducceschi from Sesto San Giovanni. The exhibition, whose title is “50 years of race walking in Sesto” looks back at the history of the Italian race which began in 1957.

A fascinating book which looks back at 50 years of the Coppa Città di Sesto was written by journalists Fausto Narducci and Daniele Redaelli.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF