Alfons Juck for IAAF
25 March 2000 Dudince The 19th edition of the traditional Slovak walking event in Dudince on Saturday lived up to all expectations. The winning finish by 1995 World Champion Valentin Konenen was achieved in a fantastic time of 3:39:34. It was not only world best mark for the year 2000 and a course record, but also a new national best and places Konenen at number six in the all time ranking lists.
From the very first kilometres he took the lead and used to his advantage the favourable conditions in the Southern Slovak spa town. There was almost no wind, just a light shower of rain toward the end of the race and the temperature remained between 6-9oC.
The 31-year old Fin received 500 USD for 1st place and another 1000 USD for the course record (the previous best of 3:42:20 was set by Pavol Szikora, then of Czechoslovakia, in 1987). This was Kononens second victory in Dudince, the first came nine years previously. After the race, the Finn was clearly satisfied with his result, which fulfilled his countrys conditions for participation at the Olympic Games.
"Now I can fully concentrate on my Olympic preparation," he said. With his time in Dudince he may well be a medal contender in Sydney.
The Slovak walking school were pleased to see the emergence of a new generation of walkers in the top spots. Behind Kononen, Peter Korcok was second to become Slovak champion and, with his 3:54:56, passed the Olympic-qualifying standard and bettered his personal record by 4:05 min. He had a great finish and was able to pass Hungarian veteran Zoltan Czukor (3:55:48), who came in third, and who was also proclaimed national champion.
The third country hosting its national championships in Dudince, was Ukraine and the title went to Vitaliy Popovich, sixth in 3:58:27.
Altogether eight walkers were able to go under 4 hours. Korcok is only the second Slovak (after marathon runner Robert Stefko), who now is assured of a place on the Olympic team. Amongst the more experienced walkers Peter Tichy went out at 20 km and Stefan Malik was not able to complete the race due to illness. 62 walkers lined up at the start of the race, but only 29 of them finished.
The womens 20 km race was also completed in a new course record, achieved by Vyera Zozula of Ukraine with a time of 1:33:45. She therefore received the Ukrainian title and a bonus of 500 USD. There is further good news for Slovak athletics young Zuzana Blazekova with 1:38:30 achieved a new national best. The talented 19 year-old, who is the daughter of 1990 20km walk European Champion Pavol Blazek, with this performance becomes the first Slovak woman to go under 1:40 at 20km.
men-50 km: 1. Valentin Kononen (Fin.) 3:39:34 course record, world best mark 2000, Finnish best, 2. Peter Korcok (SVK) 3:54:56, 3. Zoltan Czukor (HUN) 3:55:48, 4. Alexandar Rakovic (YUG) 3:56:56, 5. Vitaliy Popovich (UKR) 3:58:27, 6. Zujus Daugvinas (LIT) 3:58:39, 7. Marek Janek (SVK) 3:58:49, 8. Kazimir Verkin (SVK) 3:59:16, 9. Martin Pupis (SVK) 4:03:30, 10. Milos Batovsky (SVK) 4:05:33
women-20 km: 1. Vyera Zozula, UKR 1:33:45 - course record, 2. Tatyana Ragozina (UKR) 1:33:45, 3. Lyudmila Yegorova (UKR) 1:33:58, 4. Kalitko (UKR) 1:34:20, 5. Saltanovich (LIT) 1:34:13, 6. Miroshinchenko (UKR) 1:36:52, 7. Zuzana Blazekova (SVK) 1:38:30 - Slovak best