Qieyang Shenjie winning in Rio Maior (Antonio Fernandes) © Copyright
Preview Rio Maior, Portugal

China’s Qieyang and Cai the favourites in Rio Maior

Qieyang Shenjie, the 2012 Olympic 20 km silver medallist and Cai Zelin, the Olympic silver medallist over the distance four years later, are the leading contenders at the 28th Race Walking World Cup in Rio Maior on Saturday (6).

The Portuguese city, which has produced several of the country’s most famous racewalkers including world and European 50km champion Inês Henriques and 2013 world 20km bronze medallist João Vieira - both of whom will compete this weekend - is the first European leg of the 2019 IAAF Race Walking Challenge.

China’s Qieyang, (1:25:16 PB), the winner here last year and in 2016, returns to action after winning the National Grand Prix in Huangshan on 20 March in 1:25:37, the fastest time in the world this year.

Besides Henriques (1:29:00 PB), we’ll also see Portuguese record holder Ana Cabecinha (1:27:46); Brazilian Erica de Sena (1:26:59), fourth place finisher at the 2017 World Championship; Colombian Sandra Arenas (1:28:49), second in Rio Maior two years ago; Spain’s Julia Takacs (1:27:58), who was third over 50km at last year’s European Championships; and another Chinese athlete, Na Wang (1:28:15), who was eighth at the 2017 World Championship.

Also among the starters is Ethiopian Yehualey Mitiku Beletew (1:31:58), the 2016 African Championships runner-up over 20km.

Cai and Arevalo head men’s field

In the men’s event, 2016 Olympic 20km silver medallist Cai Zelin (1:18:47) of China, who didn’t finish at this race in 2015, is a top contender, but Colombia's Eider Arevalo (1:19.45), the 2017 world champion will be looking for a third victory in Rio Maior after wins in 2015 and 2017. He was third earlier this season at the Oceania 20km Championships in Adelaide.

Organisers have lured back the top-six finishers from last year’s competition, included Spain’s Diego Garcia (1:19:18), who went on to take 20km silver at the European Championships; his countryman Alvaro Martin (1:19:36), the 2018 European champion, and Rio Maior winner in 2016; Mexico's José Leyver Ojeda, the Pan American runner-up and third in Rio Maior last year; Ecuador’s Andres Chocho; Mexico’s Jose Luis Doctor (1:21:55); and Alexandros Papamichail (1:21:33) of Greece.

But the field doesn’t end there.

Other top names include Tom Bosworth (1:19:38) of Great Britain, the sixth place finisher at the 2016 Olympic Games and second at this race in 2017; Japanese Eiki Takahashi (1:17:26), the 2019 national champion; Rui Wang (1:19.23) of China; 2014 Rio Maior winner Caio Bonfim (1:19.42) of Brazil; and Spaniard Alberto Amezcua (1:19:45).

The women’s race begins at 17:30 local time (UTC/GMT +1) and the men at 17:42.

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF