Kjersti Plätzer takes the 20km win in Chihuahua - 2009 IAAF Race Walking Challenge (Alex Aguirre) © Copyright
Preview La Coruña, Spain

Tysse and Plätzer ready for La Coruña title defence – IAAF Race Walking Challenge PREVIEW

The sixth leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge 2009 takes place on Saturday (20 June) in La Coruña, a city which hosted every year since 1987 a world class Race Walking meet called the ‘Gran Premio Cantones de Marcha’.

The events scheduled to be contested are 20km Race Walks for both men and women.  The northwest Spanish coastal city hosted a successful IAAF World Race Walking Cup three years ago and offers the competitors an ideal, flat 1km-long circuit on which to get fast times while the spectators also benefit since they have the chance to witness a star-studded field establish plenty of fast times.

As a spokeswoman of the organisation comments: “We are proud to know that Saturday’s event has been chosen for both the Chinese and Japanese Federations to decide their representatives at the World Championships in Berlin.”

Tysse, Tallent, Wang.. Men’s 20km provides vast array of talent

Norway’s Eric Tysse lines up as the defending champion in La Coruña. The 28-year-old took a fine fifth place over 50km event at the Beijing Olympics and leads overwhelmingly the IAAF Walking Race Challenge this season thanks to a 35 points scoring.

The in-form Norwegian has completed four IAAF permits so far with a couple of runner-up places in Sesto San Giovanni (1 May, 1:21:53)  and Krakow (30 May, 38:38 for the 10km event) although his season’s best of 1:19:44 came in Rio Maior on 4 April.

More recently, Tysse has had a busy schedule at home last weekend as he made the double 10/20km at the National Championships; on Saturday 12 June he managed a superb 37:44 clocking for the shorter distance while he enjoyed a comfortable 20km win (1:35:45) on Sunday 13.

However, Tysse’s target of retaining his crown in La Coruña won’t be a piece of cake since Saturday’s line up features no less than four walkers from the Beijing Olympics 20km top-10 finishers in the guise of Australia’s reigning Olympic bronze medallist Jarred Tallent, China’s Hao Wang, fourth on that occasion and their respective compatriots Luke Adams (sixth) and Yafei Chu (10th).

The 24-year-old Tallent startled the Walking world last season by grabbing two Olympic medals; firstly he snatched bronze at the 20km with a 1:19:42 time and six days later Tallent became Olympic 50km silver medallist setting a massive PB of 3:39.27 in the process.

Later in 2008 the Aussie ace finished second twice on Spanish soil, first at the Walking Race Challenge Final in Murcia (1:24:02) and then at a 10km event in Granollers on 7 December (41:13) both times behind Spain’s ‘Paquillo’ Fernández.

Already in 2009, Tallent won the Australian 20km title last March in 1:19:42 and has had two appearances in the IAAF Challenge later being third in Chihuahua (1:23:44) and fifth in Wuxi (1:21:11).

As for Hao Wang, the still 19-year-old Chinese missed the 20km Olympic bronze medal by five seconds to Tallent in 1:19:47 and has improved this season to 1:19:27 to take a fine win at the Rio Maior event while his last outing took place at home in Wuxi with a fourth 1:20:10 performance to his credit.

Reigning World Cup bronze medallist Eder Sánchez of Mexico should be another man in the hunt for the top places; the 23-year-old opened successfully his 2009 campaign with a1:22:21 win in Chihuahua before finishing second in Wuxi in a SB of 1:19:36.

Other entrants include Ecuadorian Rolando Saquipay and the Portuguese pair of Joao Vieira and Sergio Vieira while in the absence of ‘Paquillo’ Fernández, an overwhelming victor here from 2004 to 2007 who only does a 10km track outing at the Spanish Championships in early August before the Worlds, the Spanish hopes will rest on the evergreen Jesús Ángel García Bragado; the Beijing 50km fourth placed will turn 40 next October and is a former (1993) World 50km champion.

Women’s 20km - Sixth yearly success for Plätzer?

Reigning Olympic silver medallist Kjersti Plätzer, who is the older sister of Eric Tysse, will kick off Saturday’s event as a hot favourite. The experienced 37-year-old Norwegian had already managed a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and is now on schedule to take the 2009 IAAF Challenge thanks to her clean card of five top places in five appearances capped by a 1:28:50 SB in Sesto San Giovanni.  Already a winner last year here, Plätzer leads the 2009 overall standings thanks to a 48 points scoring.

She attended the Norwegian champs last weekend where she clocked a brilliant 20:38 for the 5km event on Saturday before relaxing herself on Sunday (49:11 for the 10km).

Vera Santos of Portugal chases Plätzer on the IAAF Walking Race Challenge with 27 points. A ninth finisher at the Beijing Olympics, the 27-year-old performed nicely on home soil in Rio Maior taking a runner-up spot in 1:30:49 while her quickest time of this season came in Sesto San Giovanni where she clocked 1:29:27 for fourth.

China’s Liu Hong heads a powerful Chinese contingent; the 22-year-old was fourth at the last Olympics and has placed third in her sole outing this season in Wuxi (1:30:01) while Spanish fans will cheer on Beatriz Pascual, a creditable sixth placed in Beijing (1:27:44).

Germany’s Sabine Zimmer, a top-eight from the Osaka Worlds should be also regarded as a dangerous outsider and will try to match her second place (1:29:40) from last year here; Zimmer managed her second fastest ever time last May in San Sesto San Giovanni with a 1:29:03 result.

The course’s records are held by ‘Paquillo Fernández’ thanks to a 1:17.52 clocking back in 2005 and Ryta Turava of Belarus, author of a 1:26.27 time when winning the World Cup in 2006.

Weather forecasters predict a temperature in the 20-23ºC range by the time of the competition and no rain likelihood at all.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF