Vera Santos wins in Rio Maior (© Organisers)
Both podiums comprised Portuguese-speaking athletes at the International Race Walking Grand Prix in Rio Maior on Saturday (5) as Brazil’s Caio Bonfim won the men’s race and Portugal’s Vera Santos took the women’s title for a second time, four years after her first triumph.
A particularly hot afternoon resulted in numerous drop-outs, especially in the men’s race. But despite the weather, both 20km races were competitive.
First up was the women’s race in which the Portuguese quartet of Ana Cabecinha, Ines Henriques, Vera Santos and Susana Feitor were joined in the first half by Brazil’s Erica de Sena. After passing through the half-way mark, 2005 world bronze medallist Feitor dropped out, followed by national record-holder Cabecinha.
Of the three left in front, Henriques led, but she couldn’t hold off the closing pace of Santos, who crossed the line in a season’s best of 1:31:14.
Earlier this year, Santos finished one place ahead of Henriques at the Portuguese Championships. It was the first time since the 2011 edition of the Rio Maior Grand Prix that she had defeated her long-time rival.
De Sena came through to take second place in 1:31:22, beating the Brazilian record she set two years ago in Rio Maior.
Henriques finished third in 1:32:03, a long way ahead of Spanish duo Maria Jose Poves and Ainhoa Pinedo, clocking 1:34:24 and 1:35:56 respectively. Lithuania’s Kristina Saltanovic was sixth in 1:36:18.
“This win came about in the final laps, where my confidence grew because I knew my strength at this time of the season,” said Santos, who is currently preparing for the IAAF World Race Walking Cup and the European Championships.
Bonfim defeats Vieira
Portugal’s two-time European bronze medallist Joao Vieira, winner in Rio Maior last year, was seeking a second consecutive victory here.
He battled until the final lap, but despite his best efforts could not hold off Brazil’s Caio Bonfim, who came through to win in 1:23:15, five seconds ahead of Vieira.
Vieira’s twin brother Sergio finished third in 1:24:15.
“I’m very happy with this win,” said Bonfim, the reigning South American champion. “I’ve come to Rio Maior several times for training. It’s a great place for training and I’m trying to convince the Brazilian federation to send their athletes to train in Portugal, specifically at the Rio Maior Sports Centre.”
Italy’s late entrant Marco de Luca finished fourth in 1:24:50 ahead Bonfim’s team-mate Jose Alessandro Bagio, 1:25:52, and Portugal’s Pedro Isidro, 1:25:53.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
1 Caio Bonfim (BRA) 1:23:15
2 Joao Vieira (POR) 1:23:20
3 Sergio Vieira (POR) 1:24:15
4 Marco de Luca (ITA) 1:24:50
5 Jose Alessandro Bagio (BRA) 1:25:52
6 Pedro Isidro (POR) 1:25:53
1 Vera Santos (POR) 1:31:14
2 Erica de Sena (BRA) 1:31:22
3 Ines Henriques (POR) 1:32:03
4 Maria Jose Poves (ESP) 1:34:24
5 Ainhoa Pinedo (ESP) 1:35:56
6 Kristina Saltanovic (LTU) 1:36:18