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La Coruña, SpainChina’s Yafei Chu and Germany’s Sabine Zimmer Krantz clinched respective shock victories to highlight the “Gran Premio Cantones de Marcha” – the Spanish leg in 2009 IAAF Race Walking Challenge held Saturday (20) afternoon on a nice day although strong gusts of winds hampered the efforts of the walkers.
The 20-year-old Chu clocked 1:19:51 to better defending champion Eric Tysse of Norway by four seconds; in the women’s contest Tysse’s older sister Kjersti Plätzer, the overwhelming pre-race favourite, had to settle for the runner-up place on this occasion well behind Krantz (formerly Zimmer) 1:30:20 to 1:30:55 to switch their respective positions from last year in what was the Norwegian’s first loss in six outings at this year’s Challenge.
Men’s event: Chu is back to fast times
Over the 1km-long flat circuit, the men’s contest soon became a three-horse fight between Chu, Tysse and Mexico’s Eder Sánchez; by the 5km point this triumvirate led with a 19:45 clocking. They reached midway in 39:50, some seven seconds ahead of Australia’s double Olympic medallist Jarred Tallent, who finally dropped out in the fifteenth kilo.
By the 17km point Chu and Tysse had opened a four-second gap on reigning World Cup bronze medallist Sanchez and the neck-to neck battle between the Chinese and the Norwegian only was decided inside the last kilometre where the Beijing Olympics 20km 10th placed Chu broke away from his long-legged rival to romp home in a SB of 1:19.51 and a four-second margin on Tysse, himself another 35 seconds ahead of Sanchez, arguably holder of the best technique in the field.
Surprisingly, despite his convincing win here Chu – a gifted prodigy who clocked 1:18:44 for the distance at the age of 17 – declared, “I have won today but it doesn’t guarantee me a berth for Berlin; back in China the team for the Worlds will still have to be discussed. Anyway, I’m delighted to have succeeded at such prestigious permit like today’s.” Chu had had barely two appearances at this season’s challenge with a fourth in Rio Maior (1:21:10) as his best outing.
As for Tysse, the Osaka Worlds and Bejing Olympics 50km fifth finisher said after his third second place in a row (Sesto San Giovanni, Krakow and La Coruña): “I suffered stomach problems throughout the race and so I have to be satisfied with my result. I’m now planning an altitude stint in St. Moritz before a 5km track test in the Norwegian championships. Of course, I’ll make again the double 20/50km again in Berlin.”
With only the Berlin Worlds and the Challenge final in Saransk (Russia) on 19 September to be contested Tysse has strengthened his leadership with 45 points to Eder Sanchez’s 30 points in second.
Krantz in a class on her own
The women’s event opened quite cautiously and by the fifth kilometre point a quintet comprising Norway’ reigning Olympic silver medallist Kjersti Plätzer, Portugal’s Vera Santos, Lithuania’s Kristina Saltanovic, Japan’s Mayumi Kawasaki and Krantz went through in 22:57.
The latter and the 27-year-old Krantz injected a brisker pace in the second 5km section (22:26 for a 45:23 split) to leave the others with no chances of winning. The decisive movement came in the 12th kilometre when the German sped away easily from Tysse to increase gradually her advantage until the finish line which she crossed in 1:30:20 and a massive 35 seconds margin on the 37-year-old Norwegian.
The battle for the minor place in the podium was fierce: with eight kilometres left Mayumi had opened a 32 seconds on Santos but the Portuguese, coming from behind over the closing 5000m bounced back to take eventual third in 1:31:11 while Saltanovic also overtook a fading Kawasaki to finish fourth 15 seconds adrift Santos but six clear of the Japanese.
An ecstatic Krantz commented, “Honestly, I didn’t expect to win today, especially after having a look at the quality start list; I have walked in solitude for the last 8000m and that has been really tough due to the wind.”
Asked whether this success puts her into the Berlin medal picture, a humble Krantz replied: “At the beginning of the season, I had set myself the target of being a top-10 in Berlin and this victory doesn’t change my mind at all.” Krantz, who is a former (2000) World Junior 10km bronze medallist comes from Postdam, not far from the Worlds venue and revealed she will make her final preparations at home.
Overall, Plätzer solidly leads the Challenge with 58 points well ahead of Santos, 35 points.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Leading Results: Men 1. Yafei Chu (China) 1h19:51 2. Eric Tysse (Norway) 1h19:55 3. Eder Sánchez (Mexico) 1h20:30 4. Hao Wang (China) 1h21:15 5. Faguan Xu (China) 1h21:22 6. Luke Adams (Australia) 1h21:30 7. Joao Vieira (Portugal) 1h21:45 8. Sbai Hassanine (Tunisia) 1h22:13 9. Pedro Daniel Gómez (Mexico) 1h22:17 10. José Ignacio Díaz (Spain) 1h22:17
Women 1. Sabine Krantz (Germany) 1h30:20 2. Kjersti Plätzer (Norway) 1h30:55 3. Vera Santos (Portugal) 1h31:13 4. Kristina Saltanovic (Lithuania) 1h31:28 5. Mayumi Kawasaki (Japan) 1h31:34 6. Ana Groza (Greece) 1h32:27 7. Beatriz Pascual (Spain) 1h32:44 8. Hong Liu (China) 1h32:45 9. Yawei Yang (China) 1h33:06 10. Mingxia Yang (China) 1h33:10