Rain, sun, rain, sun, neither cold nor hot – it was typical April weather in the central Bohemian spa town of Poděbrady, but walkers took advantage of it today (13) at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge meeting.
Thanks to a one-kilometre circuit with a renewed smooth surface, spectators were treated to top-class results, especially in the men’s competition. Colombia’s Eider Árevalo and Norway’s Erik Tysse broke 1:20 for the first time in the race’s 81-year history. In the women’s race, Mexico’s Monica Equihua beat home favourite Lucie Pelantová, who found some consolation in the form of a personal best.
Slovakia’s Matej Toth, the defending champion and a four-time winner in Poděbrady, had tough competition this time. The 2010 World Cup 50km champion was in the lead group of five that stuck together until the final 5km of the race.
Eidar Árevalo – who at just 20 years old was one of the youngest in the field – broke off in the last 3km and finished wearing national flag to celebrate his victory and Colombian record of 1:19:45.
“I’m very happy, especially with the time,” said the World junior champion, who competed at the London Olympics last year where he was the top junior finisher in the 20km race walk, placing 20th.
“I moved into the lead with five kilometres to go and was trying to make a break. With 3km to go, I believed I would win,” added Árevalo, who will compete at the Pan-American Cup in Guatemala City on May 25-26 where he will face Olympic silver medallist Erick Barrondo. “I want to win there,” he said.
And what about the IAAF World Championships in Moscow? “I would like to be on top,” he said. Is it too ambitious? At the London Olympics, the Colombian was six places and one minute behind Eric Tysse. On Saturday in Poděbrady, Árevalo beat the Norwegian by six seconds.
“It was a good fight,” said the experienced Tysse, whose time of 1:19:51 in second place was just 40 seconds shy of his personal best.
Despite setting a PB of 1:20:14, Toth could do no better than third place, but he was far from disappointed. “There were world-class competitors this time. I’m really satisfied, I set a personal best even though I wasn’t in any particular shape,” said Toth, who will prepare in Italy over the next three weeks ahead of the European Race Walking Cup in Dudince on May 19. “That will be my first top race of the season. We want to show up at home,” added the 50km specialist.
In-form Equihua denies local hope Pelantová
After finishing fourth last year, Lucie Pelantová came even closer to winning this year. She raced side-by-side with Monica Equihua for 16km, but in the end her Mexican rival proved to be the strongest.
Thirty-year-old Equihua came to Poděbrady fresh from setting a PB of 1:31:09 in Rio Maior, and here she followed it with the second-best result of her career – 1:31:55.
“The time is very good and I’m very happy with today’s race,” said Equihua. “I didn’t expect it because I competed last week. The weather was fine for me, and the race was good preparation for the Pan-American Cup and the World Championships.”
Pelantová finished 13 seconds behind Equihua in 1:32:08, breaking her PB by 45 seconds. “I’m very satisfied with the race. Although I set a PB last year, it was only by four seconds – that’s like nothing in the 20km,” she said.
Was she thinking about the win over Equihua? “To be honest, I had some stomach ache, so I was happy I didn’t have to stop and use the toilet,” added Pelantová, whose next race will be the European Cup.
Italy’s Antonella Palmisano was third for the second year running, but was two minutes quicker than last year (1:32:36). Junior home talent Anežka Drahotová, who made an excellent 20km debut in Lugano last month with 1:30:54, was a little tired after the Prague Half Marathon last Saturday (she is also an accomplished runner), but she still managed to finish fourth, within two minutes behind leaders (1:33:43).
The junior 10km races were dominated by Italians. Vito Minei defended his win from last year (41:25), while Anne Clementeová – who lost to Drahotová in 2012 – had her moment of glory in the women’s race (47:52).
Michal Procházka for IAAF