Diniz to star at European Cup Race Walking in Metz on Sunday - Event Previews
The 8th European Cup Race Walking takes place in the French city of Metz on Sunday May 24. The following are the previews of the five titles up for grabs:
|Defending 20km champion Yohann Diniz (FRA)
CUE the loudest cheer of the day when Yohann Diniz is announced to the crowd before the start of the 20k in Metz.
Actually, that might be the second-loudest if the native from Reims can repeat the heroics that saw him first over the line in Leamington two years ago.
Back then, Diniz also set his PB of 1:18:58 around the English spa town's course. The perfect tonic for France and the Frenchman would be a defence of his title after a disappointing DNF in the Olympic 50k last year.
Diniz has been little seen since he climbed over a Beijing barrier and disappeared into the crowd. And the man who chased him all the way in Leamington is also likely to give him a hard time up and down the loop besides Metz's railway station.
Ivano Brugnetti posted his PB at Leamington too, and the former world champion and Olympic gold medallist knows when to turn on the style.
However, he also posts his fair share of roadside drop-outs, and the 32-year-old didn't get past 6k at the Sesto San Giovanni Challenge on home turf at the beginning of the month.
If neither is in top shape, there's always a Russian who will be.
The giant in world racewalking hasn't sent its front-line attack to France, but the slowest of the four in has a PB only seven seconds outside 1:20:00.
As that's Andrey Ruzavin, who was third in the 35k at Adler in the Russian Winter Championships in February, you can bet he too will form part of a throng of red vests at the front.
Germany's Andre Hohne will be there or thereabouts after showing early season form, while presumably hoping to peak for the World Championships in Berlin later this year.
Right behind, and forming the backbone of the top 10 will be Spain's Juan Manuel Molina alongside Ireland's Rob Heffernan, who came agonisingly close to a medal in Leamington after a last lap sprint separated third to sixth place by just six seconds.
Mens 20km entry list
Men's 50 km
THE WORLD record holder would have to be favourite for any event - and that most certainly applies to Denis Nizhegorodov at the European Cup of Race Walking in Metz on Sunday morning.
|Jesus Garcia (ESP)
The Russian, who smashed the existing 50k mark on home turf in the World Walking Cup just over a year ago to record a blistering 3:34:14, hasn't competed at the distance since he won bronze in the Olympics last August.
But he has posted a nippy 2:24:56 for 35k at the Russian Winter Championships in Adler in February.
The races at the resort on the Black Sea have traditionally been denied the official thumbs-up on times posted - but anyone churning out kilometres at just over four minutes each is in good nick no matter what the circumstances.
However, the man who headed Nizhegorodov at Adler is also going to be toeing the line in north-east France as well.
Sergey Bakulin beat his team-mate by 31 seconds at the Russian seaside, and if the 20k specialist can wade in with the concentration needed for the longer distance, he will offer a challenge right up to the last 10k when he who wants it most decides matters.
Russia should coast to a team victory, although Sergey Kirdyapkin has been having a relatively lean spell of it since he won the 2005 World Championships.
Reduced to snail's pace in the penultimate World Cup and a DNF in Beijing, the 27-year-old has recovered to be up among the best in Adler while finishing fifth.
If Russia are a shoo-in for team gold, the other medals are anything but.
Spain has got a strong unit out headed by the indefatigable Jesus Angel-Garcia, who was a mere stripling when he won the World Championships in 1993.
Now heading towards his 40th birthday in October, Garcia has showed little of the wear-and-tear of 17 years of mixing it with the best.
Italy will want a say in team matters, and although the French PBs are some way behind the sharp end of the field, the home-grown quartet headed by Eddie Riva will hope to give their countrymen something to cheer about.
Men's 50km entry list
THE WOMEN'S 20km might be the other race with a wide-open finish.
While the men's event at the distance offers a French-Italian pair as favourites with Russians in tow, the ladies could see six or seven slugging it out in the latter stages, with Portugal as close they'll ever get to team gold.
|Sabine Zimmer (GER)
Susana Feitor was often the sole Portuguese carrying the country's flag in previous major events. But now the former World Championship medallist has three others around her to share the burden.
Vera Santos has made strides to get in among the best - and was easily under 90:00 at the San Sesto Giovanni at the beginning of May.
Ines Henriques is also near her best, and Ana Cabecinha was the surprise showing at the Olympics in Beijing.
However, a new name might herald a new stage for Sabine Krantz.
The former Sabine Zimmer has always been top 10 material, but with the best Russians absent and her old nemesis Kjersti Platzer also giving Metz a miss, this is the ideal moment for the German to get a medal to celebrate her recent marriage.
Ireland's Olive Loughnane's 1:27:45 PB set in Beijing will see her up with the leaders, but inevitably Mother Russia will expect her walkers to deliver something in France.
Former junior champions Vera Soklova and Yelena Shumkina have graduated to the senior ranks and got the nod for this trip after following Olympic champion Olga Kaniskina home in Adler in February.
Anisya Kirdyapkina will be able to cheer husband Sergey on in the 50k before her afternoon start, and the one junior left of the three red vests improved on her PB to record a superfast 1:25:26 in Adler.
Claudia Stef from Romania is also high-placing material, and even at 33, Spain's Maria Vasco is a force to be reckoned with.
Intriguingly, there are no entries from the traditionally walking stronghold of Italy, so a team bronze after Russia and Portugal scrap for the top two could be just about anybody's.
Women's 20km entry list
Junior women 10km
AS A contest the junior women's 10k will last around 10 seconds - or about as long as it takes the Russian trio to disentangle themselves from the charge at the gun.
World Walking Cup winner from last year, Tatyana Kalmykova is here - although this time the 19-year-old has two others for company.
Tatyana Mineyeva and Kseniya Trifonova are making their debuts in the competition - but the Russian Winter Championships in Adler in February saw both head Kalmykova with all three dipping under 43:00.
The nearest PB to all three is more than three minutes behind - or to put it another way: the rest will be able to get a good luck at the Russians as they come back on the other side of the course in Metz, with no bets on a fair few getting lapped around the 2k loop.
The Romanian pair of Alexandra Gradinariu and Adriana Turnea are next best on paper, with the knowledge that both have set their PBs in the last two months.
Poland's Anna Mielcarek is something of a veteran at junior level, having set her best in Leamington at the last European Cup and has cosistently gone under 50:00 since then.
And experience is something of a bonus when novices at age 17 or under get sucked into a frantic first-lap stampede only to end up crawling home when the gas runs out in the latter stages.
Junior womens 10km entry list
Junior men's 10km
WHAT happened to Russian junior walkers at their Winter Championships in February determined their team for Metz.
Needless to say, the top three in Adler for the 10k is the same trio expecting to medal in Metz.
Denis Strelkov was beaten into second on the Black Sea coast, but he's the one with history having taken bronze in the World Walking Cup last year.
His 39:16 PB set a few months before that suggests he would have to stop for a coffee at a pavement bistro on Sunday to finish off the podium.
Newcomer Stanislav Yemelyanov won in Adler only a second slower than Strelkov's PB. But he will be under the scrutiny of an array of European judges for the first time, so anything approaching his superfast clocking will include careful inspection before he gets to the finish line.
Right behind should come an almighty throng if current standings are anything to go by.
There are 19 on the entry list of 44 who have times under 44:00, with Briton Ben Wears currently the man in form.
The 18-year-old from Yorkshire took a massive slice out of his PB to record 41:57 in Coventry at the beginning of April.
Britain won 15 Olympic medals in the 20th century - but have captured no major honour since Roger Mills gained a belated bronze in the European Championships 35 years ago.
All thing being equal, Wears could be up there if the judges get to work on removing others who don't conform to rules.
Another first-timer, Vito Di Bari, also brings recent pedigree into the race, while 18-year-old Velli-Matti Partanen hopes his 41:52 from last September allows him to further the tradition that saw Finland gain walking golds in the 1980s and 90s.
Junior men's 10km entry list