MonteCarloThe inaugural IAAF Race Walking Challenge has already reached halfway, with just the men’s and women’s 20km competitions in La Coruòa, Spain on 7 June to take place before the final Challenge standings are decided following competition at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics, in Paris (23-31 August) over 20km (women), and 20k and 50km (men).
The IAAF Race Walking Challenge got under way in Tijuana, Mexico on 8 March with victories for Spain’s Jesus A. Garcia in the men’s 50km, and for Ireland’s Gillian O’Sullivan in the women’s 20km. However, the largest cheers from the 30,000 spectators who lined the course were reserved for local hero Bernardo Segura, who won the men’s 20km in 1:19:06, just two seconds ahead of the world record holder, Francisco Fernandez of Spain.
Successful second and third legs of the Challenge were held in Rio Maior, Portugal (5 April), and Sesto San Giovanni, Italy (1 May). Both meetings held men’s and women’s competitions over 20km, with Aigars Fadejevs (LAT) and Elisabetta Perrone (ITA) the winners in Portugal, and Fernandez and O’Sullivan taking the honours in Italy.
The final Challenge standings for both men and women will be based on the best three results achieved by each athlete from the originally scheduled six events. However, with the competition in Shanghai, China on 24/25 May cancelled due to the SARS outbreak which has reduced the challenge to five events, it is Fernandez who has contested two events so far, who currently heads the men’s overall standings with 19 points. Fadejevs who has also raced twice, is in second place on 17 points by virtue of his win in Portugal, which keeps the Latvian ahead of Poland’s triple Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski, who is also on 17 points but who has yet to win a Challenge event.
In the women’s overall standings, Portugal’s consistent Susana Feitor, who is one of the few walkers to have raced all three events is leading with 22 points after third places in Tijuana and Sesto San Giovanni, and a fifth place finish in Rio Maior. Ireland’s Gillian O’Sullivan, who has two wins from two races so far, is just two points behind Feitor. Kjersti Plätzer of Norway, also having just raced twice is in third position on 16 points.