The official IAAF Press conference for the 23rd IAAF World Race Walking Cup held today at Government House in Cheboksary was attended by IAAF President Lamine Diack; Pierre Weiss – IAAF General Secretary; Sergey Gaplikov – Prime Minister of Chuvash Republic; Valentin Balakhnichev- ARAF President; Nikolay Emelyanov – Mayor of Cheboksary.
Athletes present included Susana Feitor – 2005 World Championships 20k bronze medalist; Luke Adams – Winner of the 2007 Race Walking Challenge; Jefferson Perez – reigning three-time World 20k race walking champion.
If the conditions are right – there’s a World record on the cards at the IAAF World Walking Cup in Cheboksary this weekend.
So reckons World Championship bonze medallist Susana Feitor at the IAAF Press conference on Friday after she checked out the waterside course at the capital of the Chuvash Republic.
Feitor believes Russians will be tough to beat
The Portuguese veteran of eight World Cups was too diplomatic to say which athlete(s) might be in line for a $50,000 bonus for breaking an existing mark - but hinted the home nation stood a better chance than most.
“If all the (weather) conditions are correct, and there is no wind, the home supporters will make a big impact,” she said.
“The course is very good. I know from before when I was here in 1993, the crowds were very enthusiastic, and that makes a huge difference in a race like this.”
One of the best hopes for the title and a fat bank account was fighting illness on Friday.
Olga Kaniskina was meant to have attended the conference. But at the last minute the word came through the 20km World champion, and holder of the fastest time this year, was sick and back in the Russian team hotel.
If the 23-year-old has recovered, she and the rest of her team-mates can bank on a tough time from the Portugal quartet, according to Feitor.
Three of her compatriots are already selected for the Olympics at Beijing, and Feitor herself, claimed this weekend in the city 600km east of Moscow was all about making the podium as a unit rather than an individual.
She said: “Of course, Beijing is very important this year, and I hope to be ready for what could be my last Olympics.”
Feitor has suffered after her magnificent second in Rio Maior at the IAAF Challenge Series race last month, but unlike Jefferson Perez, has recovered to race this weekend.
The embodiment of walking success was out for three months after his first in Osaka at the World Championships, and has only been back to full training since January.
And therefore the man who has three World Cups to his name won’t be adding a fourth this weekend.
“Seventeen weeks training is not enough for a competition where you have to be at your best,” Perez said. “I won’t be competing, but I hope someone will break a World record anyway.”
Australians aiming at team podium
On the theme of absent friends, Luke Adams admitted Australia would be missing World champion Nathan Deakes after the record holder at 50km returned home this week to nurse a problem, rather than take up his ticket to Cheboksary.
But Adams, who admitted he has stepped out of the shadow of his team-mate to lift the 2007 Walking Series, believes the team from Down Under can make it to podium for the second time in a row.
He said: “We made a point of not talking about our chances because they could go wrong, and that’s what happened – they’ve gone wrong.
“But apart from Jared Tallent who’s also come through, we’ve got two other strong walkers and we plan to be competitive.”
With all eyes on the Olympics after this weekend there was media interest as to the strength of the Chinese team in Cheboksary.
Of all the platform party, Adams was best positioned to comment after a fleeting experience in the debut race at the Beijing IAAF Challenge Race last month.
The Aussie pulled out of the 20km after 4km to prevent further injury, and admitted he was surprised the race hadn’t been quicker.
“In the past, the Chinese leg of the series has produced some really fast times,” he said.
“The course itself was interesting. White as a colour for the surface will be something to think about, and because of the large concrete blocks, it will be a bit unforgiving for the 50km walkers.”
But at least at the 23rd version of the World Walking Cup, those embarking on the long march on Sunday are sure to be cheered from first to last if the expectant atmosphere around town is anything to go by.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF