Kjersti Plätzer defends her title in Rio Maior (Marcelino Almeida) © Copyright
General News Lisbon, Portugal

Plätzer defends in Rio Maior - IAAF Race Walking Challenge

Kjersti Plätzer won her second consecutive title while China’s Hao Wang took his first at the 18th Grande Premio Internacional en Marcha Atletica in the Portuguese Race Walking capital of Rio Maior, the second leg of the 2009 IAAF Race Walking Challenge.

Women’s 20km - Plätzer beats the conditions

It was a very powerful performance by the Norwegian Kjersti Plätzer, showing her fitness after her win in Chihuahua last month. The Olympic silver medallist walked from the front throughout but through the first 10 kilometres had another 10 competitors for company, among them all the best Portuguese racers, to the joy of the large crowds lining the course.

Aftera strong attack by Plätzer in the 12th kilometre that changed, with only Portugual’s Inês Henriques, who was second in the Chihuahua race, and Vera Santos, who was third at last year’s IAAF World Race Walking Cup, able to follow. At least until the 17th kilometre.

Then Platzer went to get a solitary win in 1:30:35, a time significantly slower than the 1:29:29 which carried her to victory a year ago. Strong winds heavily affected the competition, but for the 37-year-old Plätzer, it was nonetheless a season’s best.

“I wasn’t comfortable during the race because the other competitors prove to be very strong,” Plätzer said. “And I was afraid of the Portuguese, also. In the last kilometre, the cold made me be most afraid of all. But it where a very good winning.”

The second to reach the finish was Santos who improved upon her seventh place finish last year in 1:30:49, also a season’s best. Henriques, who was ninth last year - but second in Chihuahua this season – was third. Lithuanian Kristina Saltanovic was fourth (1:31:26), ahead of Romania’s Claudia Steff.

Susana Feitor, a glory in Portugal, had to give up after the 13th kilometre. Other strong names including German Sabine Krantz and Irishwoman Olive Loughnane, didn’t finish either. Ana Cabecinha, who was eighth at the Olympic Games and third here last year, was only seventh today.

Men’s 20km - Hao prevails

In the men race, Norway’s Erik Tysse (pb: 1.19.11), Plätzer’s brother who won here last year, was among the leaders as well, but Hao Wang of China (pb.: 1.19.47), who was fourth in Beijing last summer, was the stronger today. The race turned into a battle between Hao and Italy’s Giorgio Rubino, with the former prevailing in 01:19:27. Rubino, who was fifth at the 2007 World Championships, was ten seconds adrift in 1:19:37 to finish second. Both raced to personal bests. Tysse was third, another seven seconds back. Hao’s performance was the second fastest ever in Rio Maior, and Rubino’s the third fastest ever at the event.

The first five all clocked season’s bests, with Mexican Jesus Sánchez (pb: 1.23.02) who was third in the Chihuahua 50 km this year, clocking a personal best 1:21:14 to finish fifth, just behind China’s Yafei Chu (1:21:10).

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF

Leading Results -

Women 20km
1. Kjersty Plätzer NOR 1:30:35
2. Vera Santos POR 1:30:49
3. Inês Henriques POR 1:31:05
4. Kristina Saltanovic LTU 1:31:26
5. Claudia Stef ROM 1:31:54
6. Tatyana Sibileva RUS 1:31:59
7. Ana Cabecinha POR 1:33:05
8. Ana Maria Groza ROM 1:35:03

Men 20km
1. Hao Wang CHN 1:19:27
2. Giorgio Rubino ITA 1:19:37
3. Erik Tysse NOR 1:19:44
4. Yafei Chu CHN 1:21:10
5. Jesus Sánchez MEX 1:21:14
6. Andre Höhne GER 1:21:30
7. Ivan Trotski BLR 1:22:33
8. Jose Alessandro Bagio BRA 1:22:53