Olympic medallists Erick Barrondo and Jarred Tallent, 2009 world bronze medallist Eder Sanchez and Portugal’s Ana Cabecinha are ready to shine on Saturday (7) in Chihuahua, Mexico, host to the second stop of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge.
Three-time Olympic medallist Talent has been a regular feature in the Mexican leg of the challenge, making his seventh trip to the northern Mexican city after winning the series opener at home in Adelaide two weeks ago.
“This is a great event,” said Tallent, who is also joined by his wife and fellow race walker Claire. “I come here every year because organisers help us a lot but also because Mexican race walkers are fast and I like coming here to compete against them in the 20km.”
The 30-year-old Australian has been one of the most consistent athletes on the IAAF Race Walking Challenge circuit with five top-three finishes in the overall standings, including series victories in 2008 and 2013. He finished second last year.
The two-time World Championships medallist has stepped on the podium in Chihuahua three times. Third in 2009 and second in 2012, he also added the World Cup bronze in this Mexican city in 2010.
Guatemala’s Olympic runner-up Barrondo will make his debut on the flat Chihuahua course as he continues to prepare for both the 20km and 50km. It will also be his first international competition after his most recent experience during the Central American Games in Veracruz, also in Mexico. Disqualified in 20km, he bounced back six days later to claim the 50km gold.
Apart from Tallent, Barrondo should also face strong opposition from local star and 2009 challenge winner Eder Sanchez, the most successful athlete in the Mexican leg of the challenge with four wins, the last one dating back to 2012.
Sanchez leads the Mexican contingent, which also includes 2014 runner-up Omar Segura and 2013 winner Isaac Palma.
Other top entrants include Australia’s three-time Olympian and 2007 challenge winner Luke Adams, Italy’s Giorgio Rubino, Ecuador’s Rolando Saguipay, Norway’s Erick Tysse and Canada’s Evan Dunfee and Inaki Gomez.
The 2015 edition will crown a new champion as last year’s winner, Colombia’s Eider Arevalo, is eyeing the Portuguese stop of the circuit next month in Ro Major.
The women’s field is led by Colombia’s defending champion Sandra Lorena Arenas and the Portuguese trio of Cabecinha, Ines Henriques and Susana Feitor.
Cabecinha showed fine early season form when she took the national indoor title over 3000m in a world-leading and national record time of 12:17.93.
Third in the 2013 and 2014 editions of the challenge, the 30-year-old wants to improve one spot from her two consecutive runner-up performances in the past two editions. After featuring six times on the podium in Chihuahua, including three consecutive wins in 2011-2013 and the 2010 World Cup bronze, Henriques wants to return to a top performance following her fourth place in 2014.
Also coming from high altitude training in the United States is Feitor, who is preparing to extend her record World Championships appearances to 12 in Beijing later this summer. Feitor competed at 11 consecutive IAAF World Championships from 1991 to 2011 and clinched the bronze medal at the 2005 edition in Helsinki.
The local chances are centred on Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez, who finished third in Chihuahua last year and went on to become the first Mexican to break the 1:30 barrier (1:28:48) at the World Cup. 2012 World Cup junior silver medallist Alejandra Ortega returns to the competition after recovering from injury. Ortega won the junior race of the challenge in 2012 and 2013.
Organisers expect the arrival of more than 150 athletes from 21 countries, with $50,500 in total prize money for the top eight in each elite event.
The challenge will start at 7am with the 50km, followed by the junior women’s 10km at 8am and the junior men’s 10km at 9:15. Women will contest the 20km at 11:30 and men will follow at 13:30.
Races will be held on a two-kilometre loop course at the Ciudad Deportiva Sur de Chihuahua, the same course used for the 2010 World Cup. The city is located 1434m above sea level.
Host of the Mexican stop of the challenge since 2008, Chihuahua is the second stop of the 11-leg series that will travel to Asia, Africa Europe and Oceania over the next six months to conclude at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 in August.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF