Alex Schwazer clocked an Olympic record of 3:37:09 to win the men's 50k walk (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Sesto San Giovanni, Italy

Olympic champions set for IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Sesto San Giovanni - PREVIEW

Sesto San Giovanni, Italy - Reigning Olympic champions Valeriy Borchin (20km), Alex Schwazer (50km) and Olga Kaniskina (20km) will highlight the 54th edition of the Coppa Città di Sesto San Giovanni, the fourth leg of the 2011 IAAF Race Walking Challenge, scheduled on Sunday 1 May.

Italian fans will look forward to cheering their home star Schwazer who will defend his Sesto title won last year in the 20km race in 1:20:29. For the Südtyrol walker the popular Northern Italian race on the outskirts of Milan will be a test race on the road to the 50 km race  at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea later this year.

Schwazer, who is now coached by former World 20km champion Michele Didoni, suffered a knee injury during a skiing accident last January. Fortunately for him and his fans, this physical problem was not so serious as feared shortly after the accident. Schwazer is on the road to full recovery as shown by his recent test on the Pino Dordoni track (the same venue as Sunday’s race) in Sesto two weeks ago where he finished second in 40:43 in the 10,000 metres behind his teammate Matteo Giupponi during the second leg of the Italian Walking Grand Prix. Schwazer has planned his only 50 km race before Daegu on 19 June in Villa di Serio near Bergamo.

Giupponi, reigning European U23 bronze medallist, has enjoyed a brilliant 2011 season so far with a win in the 20km Podebrady race in 1:22:36, a ‘B’ qualifying mark for Daegu and will be looking to confirm his recent form against a very strong field.

The two Italians, who compete for the Carabinieri Bologna team, will face Bejing Olympic champion and Berlin 2009 World champion Valeriy Borchin, who won the Portuguese leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Rio Major in 1:18:55  In that race Borchin beat Mexican Eder Sanchez, third in 1:19:36, who will also line-up in Sesto. The Berlin World bronze medallist Sanchez won in Chihuahua earlier this season.

Another name to watch in Sesto San Giovanni will be Tunisia’s Hassanine Sebei, who finished fourth at the Memorial Mario Albisetti setting his PB of 1:20:20.

In the women's 20km the chief star is Olga Kaniskina who has won every major title at 20km clinching gold medals at the two last editions of the World Championships in Osaka 2007 and Berlin 2009, at the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and the European Championships in Barcelona 2010. The Russian won in Rio Maior in 1:28:35 and will renew her battle with Portugal’s Sesto San Giovanni defending champion Vera Santos, who finished third in the Portuguese meeting in 1:29:55. Santos won last year in Sesto in 1:28:29.

Rigaudo and Rubino make their debut in Alessandria

It will be an important Sunday for Italian walkers, as on the same date two top Italian stars Elisa Rigaudo and Giorgio Rubino will make their debut over the 10,000 metres distance on the track in Alessandria.

Rubino, fourth at the World Championships in Berlino and fifth at the European Championships in Barcelona, will make his first appearance seven months after his last race at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final where he finished third. Rubino is recovering from some physical problems sustained during the winter and he will make a test before the European Cup on 22 May in Olhao (Portugal).

Rigaudo, Olympic bronze medallist in Beijing, will come back after giving birth to her first daughter Elena last September. For the Italian race walker, who trains with Rubino under the guidance of Italian Walking race guru Sandro Damilano at the IAAF Race Walking Centre in Saluzzo, it will be the first test before the European Cup in Olhao and the World Championships in Daegu. Rigaudo’s last competition was the 2009 IAAF Walking Race Challenge Final in Saransk in which she finished third.  

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF