Nizhegorodov reigns supreme at the European Cup Race Walking
Men - 50km walk:
|Denis Nizhegorodov of Russia successfully defended his men's 50km
title at the European Cup Race Walking in Olhao on Saturday.
Defending champion Denis Nizhegorodov of Russia made sure any pretenders to his throne knew what they were up against from the start at the European Cup of Race Walking in Olhão on Saturday.
Although the start was a bit delayed, when the gun finally went the Russian made sure there was an even bigger wall between him and the rest of the field.
The only walker who fancied his chances was Marco De Luca.
But strangely, the tall Italian decided to keep his distance over the first 20k (1:29:12). He backed off six or seven metres because over the one-kilometre lap maybe he didn’t want to prompt the Russian into going even faster.
Eventually, on lap 18 De Luca drew level and even forged a five-metre gap.
Now that Nizhegorodov was aware of someone around him, he started to reel off 4:25-4:30 circuits and push the Italian to his limits.
It said something for the challenge that De Luca held on until 32k. But when he did finally come off the back – it was all over.
Spectators would have been forgiven for losing track of the race in the middle part as juniors shared the course while parting the field like Moses.
The fastest junior men and women contrasted with just about everybody except Nizhegorodov who kept up a faultless rhythm to the finish.
Further back, the brave De Luca was passed by Igor Yerohkin at the 46 km mark now travelling faster than anyone but the winner.
The second placer bided his time in a chasing pack of nine, with Norwegian Trond Nymark first to feel the heat.
The group containing Chris Linke (Germany), Artur Brzozowski (Poland) and Colin Griffin (Ireland) also got broken up over the last 10 km, with the first two claiming fourth and fifth and debutant Jean-Jacques Nkouloukidi walking a perfectly judged race for sixth.
Nizhegorodov had time to joke after his second European Cup win.
“This was tough in the heat,” he said. “But it was hot in Metz two years ago as well. It’s always hard when you are at the front. The only time it’s not difficult for me is when I’m in bed.”
De Luca’s tilt at the gold was hampered by a cramp in his leg at 30k.
He added: “The plan was to win a medal – and it was really hot – so I’ve got to be pleased with third.”
Junior Men -10km walk:
|Ukraine's Ihor Lyashchenko celebrates after crossing the finish line
in the junior men's 10km race.
Who said eastern Europeans can’t walk in the heat?
From the second Ihor Lyashchenko decided to hit fifth gear there was little the only walker with him could do about it.
The Ukrainian and German Hagen Pohle were on their own from the eighth kilometre (33:31), having upped the pace from a modest 4:21 for each kilometre to somewhere around four-minute pace by the time they lost Russian Dementiy Cheparev and Spaniard Alvaro Martin (Spain).
Lyashchenko was straining at the leash, head forward and leaning into a long stride. World Youth Champion Pohle’s shorter upright stance was losing a metre every 30 seconds by the time the Ukrainian heard the bell.
The leader then tore into the final circuit, legs going like pistons, and was actually smiling through the pain as he turned for the final time.
Pohle looked happy enough as he crossed the line for silver, and Russia’s second-fastest of the year Dementiy Cheparev was a worthy bronze after taking it on from the gun.
But such was the studied start there was a throng of 15 contesting the first circuit. Then as the pace quickened, those walking near their personal bests were cast off like mooring ropes.
By 5 km, clocked at 21:15, a group of seven had already wreaked havoc, and then finally Pavel Parshin (Russia) and Martin drifted back on lap seven.
Cheparev was the last to go in a super-fast race where all the leading protagonists were mere seconds away from their personal bests despite the rising thermometer.
The team race went nearly the same way as the individual podium with Lyashchenko joined at the top by Oleksandr Verbytskyi, but this time Russia edging out Germany with Pohle and team-mate Marcel Lemberg in 10th taking bronze.
Lyashchenko said: “I train two hours a day, but I wasn’t feeling that well. I was so nervous I didn’t sleep – but I still thought I could make the top three, and I really enjoyed having the spectators there.”
Pohle added: “It was a fast course – and over the last 3k I was sure I could get a medal, a pity it wasn’t gold.”
Junior women: 10km walk
|The Russian pair of Yelena Lashmanova and Svetlana Yasilyeva dominated
the junior women's 10km race finishing first and second respectively.
The gaps were massive in the junior women’s race.
In fact, as a contest it was over after lap one, and by the finish the Russian phalanx had given their first interviews even before the bronze medallist was in sight.
However, form got turned on its head with winner Yelena Lashmanova getting the better of Svetlana Yasilyeva.
At the Russian Winter Championships in February it had been the other way around, but from 3 km (12:48), the gold medallist this time had forged a four seconds gap over her friend.
Thereafter, it was a procession to the finish for Lashmanova as she added a handful of seconds over each circuit that smashed her PB by 30 seconds.
Admittedly, Kate Veale was more than two-and-half minutes back, but the Irish girl was also on the end of a PB as well as a medal.
Red hair tied firmly back, these conditions do not favour someone of her pale skin, but once she clawed back the 23-second deficit on Liudmyla Olianovska – who clearly got carried away by the success of her Ukrainian Junior men – bronze belonged to Ireland.
Nearly three minutes behind, Italian Anna Clemente staggered over the line, and a very long tired trail followed her in.
Team gold went to Russia’s perfect score. Italy were second with Federica Curiazzi right behind Clemente, and the game pairing of Anezka Drahotova (7th) and Eliska Drahotova (12th) brought a surprise bronze for the Czech Republic.
Winner Lashmanova said: “Svetlana beat me last time, because I wasn’t feeling well. This time, it was her turn to feel under the weather.”
Veale was a delighted medallist and paid tribute to the man who got her there.
“My inspiration is my coach and clubmate Jamie Costin. He’s been to the Olympics four times, and made sure I peaked just right,” she said.
“The key was not to go off too fast, and it worked.”
Click here for the complete results.