Those athletes preparing for the European Race Walking Cup in Podebrady in just over two months time may now decide to step up their training just an extra ounce with the news that the Ukrainian team will be led by one of the best in the world – Ihor Hlavan.
It might not be until 21 May when the Czech spa town stages one this year’s biggest events on the European Athletics calendar but Ukraine have set their stall out early, though 2014 world 20km race walking champion Ruslan Dmytrenko has not made it after finishing seventh at the national championships while suffering from illness.
They have named a squad of 18 – 11 men and seven women – which includes Hlavan, who won individual and team silver in the 50km event at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome last year.
A walker of outstanding consistency, Hlavan finished in 3:44:02 as Australian Jared Tallent (3:42:36) took the title in a career where he has been so close to making the podium at a major championship.
Twice he has finished fourth at the world championships – in Moscow in 2013 in the 50km and in Beijing in 2015 in the 20km – and the European Race Walking Cup could be a good omen for the summer ahead, with the World Championships in London.
When Murcia last staged this biennial competition in 2015, Spain’s Miguel Angel Lopez won the 20km and then progressed to world gold in the race where Hlavan was fourth.
Hlavan was fifth in Murcia in 1:21:24 as Lopez won in 1:19:52 but his priority is now on the longer distances in the build up to London.
His personal best goes back to that Moscow final in 2013 when his time of 3:40:39 was 36 seconds shy of Tallent in bronze.
Ivan Banzeruk, who was also part of the world race walking silver medal team in Rome – he was sixth in the race – is part of the 50km squad again, as are Marian Zakalnytstyi and Andriy Hrechkovskyi, who were both non scorers 12 months ago.
Hlavan and Banzeruk had a quite a tussle in the 50km race at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in 2014, with the latter achieving his personal best of 3:44:49 for fifth, 19 seconds and a position ahead of his teammate.
Serhiy Budza, who was Ukraine’s third athlete home in 17th in Rome, reverts to the 20km in Podebrady.
Men: 20km: Nazar Kovalenko, Ivan Losev, Oleksiy Kazanin, Serhiy Budza. 50km: Andriy Hrechkovskyi, Ihor Hlavan, Ivan Banzeruk, Marian Zakalnytstyi. 10km (juniors): Victor Shumik, Eduard Zabuzhenko, Viktor Kononenko.
Women: 20km: Nadiya Borovska, Inna Kashina, Olena Mizernyuk,Valentyna Myronchuk. 10km (juniors): Darya Khusainova, Ksenia Byelova, Iryna Chernukha.