Ben Thorne and Evan Dunfee made it a Canadian double and joined Brazil’s Erica de Sena as they all enjoyed their first victories at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Monterrey on Sunday (19).
Dunfee, fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, prevailed in a battle with Ecuador's Andres Chocho and Australia's four-time Olympic medallist Jared Tallent in the 50km. The 26-year old moved away to the front alone after 42km and went on to take the win in 3:46:03, more than a minute ahead of Chocho (3:47:37), who had set a South American record of 3:42:57 to win in Ciudad Juarez last year.
“I am so happy to make my first ever World Challenge podium a victory. Today was about racing smart and getting the work with the time not being so important. But a 3:46 at this time of year bodes well,” said Dunfee on his Instagram account.
Having raced in all first three legs of the challenge in 2017, he is now leading the standings. He will race next at the Pan American Cup in Lima, 13-14 May.
New Zealand's Quentin Rew settled for bronze in 3:51:18, his second top-three finish at a challenge race after claiming bronze at the Oceania Championships a month ago.
The trio denied Mexicans on the podium as José Leyver Ojeda, three-time winner over the longer distance in Chihuahua, finished fourth less than a minute later in 3:52:06. Tallent did not finish the race.
Erica Morales was the only woman entered for the 50km and she completed the distance in 5:02:33.
The Canadian joy ensued in the men's 20km with world bronze medallist Ben Thorne dominating the 10-loop course at Parque Fundidora in 1:24:52, thus erasing his previous performance in Mexico when he did not finish in Chihuahua in 2014.
Thorne – who was celebrating his 24th birthday – prevailed over two Mexicans: José Luis Doctor Morales (1:25:02) and 50km specialist Horacio Nava (1:25:06), who improved from his fourth place a week ago in Ciudad Juarez.
De Sena makes her late entry count
Brazil’s Erica de Sena, second a week ago in Ciudad Juarez, was not expected to race in Monterrey but she entered at the last minute and did not disappoint to take her first ever challenge victory.
De Sena, third at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Rome 2016, moved away from two of the other pre-race favourites – Ines Henriques and Ana Cabecinha – to cross the finish line first in 1:32:06.
Henriques returned to the podium in second with 1:33:21, leaving the bronze to her fellow Portuguese Cabecinha (1:34:16), the same placing she had a week ago in Ciudad Juarez.
Mexico's top medal contender, Maria Guadalupe Sanchez, missed the podium by less than a minute in fourth.
With a second place in Ciudad Juarez and a victory here, De Sena moves to the top of the challenge standings. The 31-year-old was third overall in 2015 and fourth last year.
A junior 10km race was also held and local athletes swept all medals. Federico Gonzalez (42:31), Angel Colunga (43:37) and Jefferson Segura (44:04) finished top three among the U20 men. Alegna Ariday Gonzalez took the U20 women's title in 45:43, nine second ahead of IAAF World U20 Championships fourth placer Valeria Ortuño. Iliana Mercedes finished third in 46:23.
The event carried the name of 'Jerzy Hausleber Memorial', in honour of the late Polish coach who is regarded as the 'father' of Mexican race walking. He paved the way for success since Jose Pedroza’s silver medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Raul Gozalez, two-time Olympic medallist at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the current director of the Sports Institute of the State of Nuevo Leon, presided over the tribute to Hausleber.
Other Mexican Olympic medal winners were also present: Carlos Mercenario (silver in Barcelona 1992), Daniel Bautista (gold in Montreal 1976), Ernesto Canto (gold in Los Angeles 1984), Bernardo Segura (bronze in Atlanta 1996), as well as Maria Guadalupe González, silver medallist at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The IAAF Race Walking Challenge now moves to Europe for the fifth leg of the 10-race series in Rio Maior, Portugal, on 1 April.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF