Reigning European champion Ryta Turava notched up her third consecutive win in the Coppa Città di Sesto San Giovanni - IAAF Race Walking Challenge 2007 - in an impressive 1:27:10 in a high-quality women’s 20 km race which saw four women dipping under the 1:30 barrier.
Turava beat former Olympic silver medallist Kjersti Tysse-Plätzer who finished strongly in a new national record of 1:27:41 after a conservative start. Chinese Song Hongjuan took third spot in 1:28:25 finishing ahead of compatriots Jang Jing (1:29:45), German Sabine Zimmer (1:30:20) and Italian Elisa Rigaudo (1:30:54).
Erik Tysse from Norway, younger brother of Kjersti, completed a great day for the Tysse family by winning the men’s 20 race in 1:21:38 over Australian Luke Adams (1:22:18) and Joao Vieira from Portugal (1:23:16). To the disappointment of Sesto San Giovanni fans Ivano Brugnetti dropped out shortly after 15 km.
The Chinese pushed hard in the first laps inside the athletics stadium which is named after Italian walking legend Pino Dordoni (Olympic 50km champion in Helsinki 1952).
Five Chinese women took the early lead with Ryta Turava. The leading pack was formed by Song Hongjuan, Jiang Jing, Liu Hong, Bai Yanmin and Jiang Qiuyan who upped the pace increasing their lead on Turava by some metres in the first 5 kilometres. They reached the 5 km mark in 21:59.
Plätzer started more conservatively in the early stages of the race staying in the chasing group with Germans Melanie Seeger and Sabine Zimmer, Australia’s Jane Saville and Belarus’ Elena Ginko.
Though the Chinese continued to set a fierce pace in the front Turava caught up with the leading group not long after 5km, and as the pack reach half way (43:59) four chinese women (Jiang Jing, Song Hongjuan, Jang Qiuyan and Bai Yanmin) remained in contention with Turava. Plätzer, who has recently recovered from a minor injury in her lower back was also surging and closing up with the leaders.
The front group was reduced to just three women with three laps to go: Ryta Turava, Song Hongjuan and Jiang Jing. At this point Turava, who is the younger sister of European 3000m Steeplechase champion Alesya Turava, took a solid lead over Song Hongjuan clocking 1:05:43 at 15 km, while Plätzer caught up with the fading Chinese to take third position. Finally by17 km, the Norwegian who was also able to overhaul Song Hongjuan taking second spot thanks to a strong second half in which she clocked the final 5 kilometres in 21:34.
Turava’s lead was never under threat. She walked the final 5km split in 21:27 taking her second consecutive win in the IAAF Walking Challenge after Rio Major in 1:27:10, the fastest time in the world this year which she already held with her 1:28:01 set in the Portuguese leg of the circuit.
“In the first 5 km I did not feel well. I had some breathing problems. Only after 5 km I began feeling better. I am very pleased with the strong support from italian crowd who supported me along the course. They encouraged me during the whole race. I want to continue competing on the IAAF circuit in La Coruna and Krakow,” said Turava.
Plätzer was very delighted with her new national record of 1:27:41 which improved the old limit she set in 2000 during the Olympic year in which she won the silver in Sydney. For the Norwegian 2007 has marked a brilliant return to form after her maternity leave. This season she won the first leg of the circuit in Naucalpan followed by a runner-up placing in Rio Maior where she picked a minor lower back injury.
“I was focused on walking my own race and being patient. It was a fight against the time to recover from the injury and I decided not to follow the strong pace of the Chinese who pushed hard from the beginning. The tactic paid off and it was rewarded with a national record. The last time I set a national record was in 2000. It’s the eighth time I am in Sesto. Seven times I went to the podium and once I did not compete because I was pregnant”, said Plätzer who gave birth to her second child in 2005.
“It’s like competing at home here with crowd shouting my name along the course. Now I need rest and focus on my training. In June I will return to competitions. I am planning La Coruna, Krakow and the National Champs before a training stint in St. Moritz before Osaka,” continued Plätzer.
The men’s race started promisingly for local hero Ivano Brugnetti who was looking for the first win in Sesto San Giovanni of his career. The reigning Olympic 20km champion and former World 50km champion took the early lead in the first laps inside the stadium encouraged by the strong support from the home crowd.
The Italian went to the front followed by Commonwealth Games silver medallist Luke Adams, chinese Lu Ronghua (PB 1:18:49), Erik Tysse from Norway, Wei Yang and Dong Jimin from China, Mikel Odriozola from Spain.
Brugnetti reached 5km in 20:27 leading over Adams and Lu Ronghua, upping the tempo when walking the 2km split between 5 and 7 km in 8:03 increasing his lead over Adams to 15 seconds at 10 km (40:44 to 40:59). However the race changed completely as Brugnetti began struggling and was caught and then overhauled by Adams at 12km.
Shortly after 15km the Olympic champion dropped out when he was in third place behind Adams and Tysse. The Aussie passed 15km in 1:01:30, five seconds faster than Tysse, at which time third place was occupied by Robert Effernan from Ireland who was later disqualified at 18km.
Tysse, like his sister Kjersti Plätzer in the morning’s women race, started off carefully and was full of energy in the second half of the race. He began pushing and caught up Adams at 16km. With three kilometres to go Tysse broke away building up a solid gap over Adams. With the disqualification of Effernan, European bronze medallist Joao Vieira from Portugal went into third place.
Tysse entered the Pino Dordoni stadium with a 40 second-lead over Luke Adams and crossed the finish-line unchallenged in 1:21:38.
“It was family business today”, said a very delighted Tysse after crossing the finish-line. “My coach Stephan (husband of Kjersti Plätzer) told me to be careful. It was hot and humid and it could be dangerous. But I was focused on walking my race. At 16 km I began feeling stronger. I came from behind but I pushed harder when I saw that I was closing the gap on Adams. Crowd along the course pushed me and gave me a lot of energy,” said Tysse.
The fantastic day of competitions which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Coppa Città di Sesto attracted big crowd along the course and in the Pino Dordoni Stadium. “It was the most amazing crowd I have ever seen in a walking race”, said runner-up Luke Adams.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Results from Sesto San Giovanni:
1. Erik Tysse (Norway) 1:21:38
2. Luke Adams (Australia) 1:22:18
3.Joao Vieira (Portugal) 1:23:16
4. Mikel Odriozola (Spain) 1.24:19
5. Rolando Saquipay (Equador) 1:24:19
6.Jean Jacques Nkouloukidi (Italy) 1:24:22
7. Jimin Dong (China) 1:24:25
8. Alessandro Gandellini (Italy) 1:24:28
9. Fortunato D’Onofrio (Italy) 1:24:55
10. Wei Yang (China) 1:25:10
1. Ryta Turava (Belarus) 1:27:10
2. Kjersti Plätzer (Norway) 1:27:41
3. Song Hongjuan (China) 1:28:25
4. Jang Jing (China) 1:29:45
5. Sabine Zimmer (Germany) 1:30:20
6. Elisa Rigaudo (Italy) 1:30:54
7. Bai Yanmin (China) 1:31:16
8. Ines Henriques (Portugal) 1:31:21
9. Susana Feitor (Portugal) 1:31:40
10. Melanie Seeger (Germany) 1:32:29