Spurred on by a hometown crowd,
local hero Vera Santos took the women’s title at the 19th Grande Premio
Internacional en Marcha Atletica in Rio Maior, Portugal on Saturday (10). On
the men’s side, Eric Tysse of Norway won this IAAF Race Walking Challenge
meeting for the second time.
Santos from the gun
In the women’s 20Km, Santos, the fifth place finisher at last year’s World Championships, was at the front throughout. In the first 10 kilometres she had China’s Yanfei Li (1:28:57, PB), the 2008 World junior bronze medallist, and German’s and German Melanie Seeger (1:28:17 PB) for company. After 12 kilometres, only the Chinese remained in contention, and soon thereafter, Santos walked on alone.
Struggling with the end in the waning stages of the race, Santos clocked 1:29:16.
“This was great winning here,” said Santos, who was third in the 2008 Race Walking Cup. “I’m feeling in good shape, I felt this was my day and I forced the pace to the finish. I felt that I’m not so good in the final sprint, but I had some good signals after the Portuguese championship.”
Santos is now focusing on the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Chihuahua, Mexico, on 15-16 May. “I will start a period of preparation at altitude, in Sierra Nevada, just to prepare for it, and I will compete in Italy (Sesto San Giovanni, 1 May). I’m hoping that João Vieira, who was absent today because an injury, can be with me at the World Cup.”
Behind Santos, Seeger made a good recovery and forced the pace to finish second in 1:30:11, just ahead of Spaniard Julia Takacs who improved her personal best by 22 seconds, clocking 1:30:20. Yanfei Li struggled in the late stages, and finished fourth, 33 seconds behind Takacs.
Portuguese Ana Cabecinha, who was eighth at the 2008 Olympic Games and a former European junior bronze medalist, was fifth in 1.31.14, with Beatriz Pascual (1:31:41). Sixth.
In the men’s 20Km, the contest was clearly between Norwegian Erik Tysse and Frenchman Yohan Diniz, with Tysse, the winner here in 2008, prevailing. The Norwegian, who also finished third here twice, clocked 1:20:08 to the Frenchman’s 1:20:23.
“This win was a first step towards achieving my main goal, the European Championship podium,” said Tysse, who was seventh at the World Championships over this distance last year. “I’m in good shape and I proved it today. I’m going now for a period of training at altitude, in the United States, Arizona, where the Portuguese Susana Feitor, Inês Henriques and Ana Cabecinha, will also train.” Tysse too is planning to compete at the next IAAF Race Walking challenge meeting in Sesto San Giovanni.
Behind the leading pair, China’s Zhen Wang, who was sixth in Lugano earlier this season, clocked a personal best 1:20:42 to finish third, ahead of Luis Fernando Lopez of Colombia, the 2008 South American Champion, who clocked 1:21:17. Eder Sanchezof Mexico clocked 1:21:45 to finish fifth.
Before the start of the competition, the organisers asked for a minute of silence to honor Polish president Lech Kaczynski who perished in a tragic plane crash on Saturday morning. Walker Grzegorz Sudol, of Poland, did not finish the race.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
Leading Results –
1. Vera Santos POR 1.29.16
2. Melanie Seeger GER 1.30.11
3. Julia Takacs ESP 1.30.20
4. Yanfei Li CHN 1.30.53
5. Ana Cabecinha POR 1.31.14
6, Beatriz Pascual ESP 1.31.41
7. Inês Henriques POR 1.32.19
8. Kristina Saltanovic LTU 1.32.42
1. Erik Tysse NOR 1.20.08
2. Yohan Diniz FRA 1.20.23
3. Zhen Wang CHN 1.20.42
4. Luis Fernando Lopéz COL 1.21.17
5. Eder Sanchez MEX 1.21.45
6. Ding Chen CHN 1.21.59
7. Matej Toth SVK 1.22.04
8, Hyunsub Kim KOR 1.22.24