Ines Henriques en route to a successful title defence in the Chihuahua 20Km (© Chihuahua organisers)
Eder Sanchez and Ines Henriques renewed their 2011 victories and Omar Zepeda posted a personal best to complete a Mexican celebration on Saturday (3) at the second leg of the 2012 IAAF World Race Walking Challenge in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The Australia duo of husband Jared and wife Claire, winners of the inaugural leg a week earlier in Hobart, finished second in their respective 20km races, their best outings on Mexican soil.
Sanchez led a group of six men until the 12th kilometre, after which he was only joined by 2008 double Olympic medallist Tallent. With less than three laps go on the two-kilometre course on the Deportiva Sur Avenue, the young Mexican began to move away from the Aussie and built up a 15-second lead at the bell. The 2009 World bronze medallist kept a solid pace to claim his fourth consecutive victory in the Mexican stop of the Challenge.
His time of 1:21:17 has been the fastest in Chihuahua since this northern city began hosting an IAAF Race Walking Challenge since 2008.
“I am satisfied to have won one of the toughest events in Mexico. It was a good time to open the season, especially considering that course has a steep (section) and that makes it challenging,” commented Sanchez.
Tallent settled for silver in a season’s best of 1:21:50, followed by Chihuahua hero and 50km specialist Horacio Nava, who walked 1:22:38 to claim his first podium of the IAAF Challenge at the shorter distance, to the delight of the fans supporting all throughout the course.
Sanchez will be joined by Isaac Palma, Pedro Gómez, Diego Flores and David Mejía as the Mexican quintet for the Race Walking World Cup, to be held May 12-13 in Saransk, Russia.
The women’s race –held two hours earlier- also came down to two athletes: defending champion Ines Henriques and Claire Tallent. Both walked side by side until 200m to the finish line, when the Portuguese launched a decisive attack to secure the win in 1:33:16, almost a minute faster than her winning time in 2011.
“I was aiming for 1:34 so I performed better than expected. I will soon have the Portuguese Championships and I want to compete well there to be able to qualify for the Olympic Games. I am very satisfied,” said the 31-year old from Rio Maior.
Claire Tallent settled for second in 1:33:21. Another Portuguese, 11-time World Championships participant and 22005 World bronze medallist Susana Feitor could not repeat her third place from 2011. She held that position until the last lap, but abandoned the course due to muscular pain. That paved the way for local Mónica Equihua to clinch bronze in 1:36:24.
Equihua, Zayra Jáuregui, Andrea Martínez, Lizbeth Silva and Claudia Ortega will represent Mexico at the World Cup in Saransk.
Zepeda back on winning track - men's 50Km
Omar Zepeda walked the fastest 50km in his history to claim his first IAAF Race Walking Challenge win since 2007.
A permanent contender at the Mexican leg of the Challenge, Norway’s 2009 World silver medallist Trond Nymark and Olympian Cristian Berdeja took the lead, but the former moved to a solo lead half way through the race, at 3:47 pace. He could not sustain that tempo and was eventually caught up after the 40km mark. He dropped to sixth in 3:55:43.
Inspired by his son, who underwent surgery two weeks earlier, Zepeda walked a smart race, gaining positions as the race went on. He finally took the lead around the 42nd kilometre, never gave it up and sailed to victory in 3:48:37, better than his previous best of 3:49:01 when sixth at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki.
“Winning is a great feeling. Thanks God and the training with Eder Sanchez under coach Víctor Sánchez, we have secured a place (for the World Cup). After six World Championships and two Pan American Games, I would love to end my career at the Olympic Games,” said the 34-year old.
“I look forward to walking closer to 3:45 to be at par with Horacio Nava,” he added.
Clemente García, 22, improved his personal best by 10 minutes to claim a surprising silver in 3:50:56, much better than his fifth placing in 2011. “I was hoping to improve my PB by five minutes and ended up improving it by 10. Competition is different from training. I walked with Omar Zepeda for almost 40km, but I got tired and could not keep up the pace. Anyway, I achieved my goal to qualify for the World Cup,” he said.
Nursing an injury for the past two months, last year’s winner and 2011 Pan American Games runner-up José Leyver Ojeda rounded out the podium spots in third with 3:51:30, ahead of Berdeja, who was rewarded with a personal best by over four minutes (3:52:17).
Making his debut at the distance, 20-year old Horacio Olivares finished fifth in a very promising 3:52:46. The top four will join Chihuahua hero and 2010 World Cup silver medallist Horacio Nava as the Mexican quintet for the World Cup in Saransk.
Alejandra Ortega, fifth at the 2011 World Youth Champs, took the top honours in the junior 10km race in 47:22, a personal best by over two minutes, ahead of 2009 World Youth silver medallist Yanelli Caballero (47:42). Jesús Tadeo Vega improved his best by over three minutes to win the junior men’s race in 41:52. The sons of Olympic medallists Carlos Mercenario and Bernardo Garza also competed in that distance.
Organizers (The Chihuahua Sports Institute) presented an award to Daniel Bautista, Mexico’s first Olympic champion in athletics and race walking, when he took the 20km gold in Montreal 1976. All races were streamed live on www.deportechihuahua.com.mx/
The 12-leg IAAF Race Walking Challenge will continue in two weeks with the Memorial Mario Albisetti in Lugano, Switzerland. The series will wrap up with the Final on September 14 in Erdos, China and the top athletes will share an overall prize of over $200,000.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1. Ines Henriques, POR 1:33:16
2. Claire Tallent, AUS 1:33:21
3. Mónica Equihua, MEX 1:36:24
4. Daniela Cardoso, POR 1:36:46
5. Claudia Balderrama, BOL 1:38:06
1. Eder Sánchez, MEX 1:21:17
2. Jared Tallent, AUS 1:21:50
3. Horacio Nava, MEX 1:22.38
4. Isaac Palma, MEX 1:23:18
5. Fredy Hernández, COL 1:23:19
1. Omar Zepeda, MEX 3:48:36
2. Clemente García, MEX 3:50:55
3. José Leyver Ojeda, MEX 3:51:30
4. Christian Berdeja, MEX 3:52:16
5. Horacio Olivares, MEX 3:53:46
6. Trond Nymark, NOR 3:55:42
Women Junior 10km (all Mexican)
1. Alejandra Ortega 47:22
2. Yanelli Caballero 47:42
3. Sandra Nevarez 48:23
Men Junior 10km (all Mexican)
1. Jesús Tadeo Vega 41:52
2. Erwin González 42:01
3. Mario Sánchez 42:35