Barrondo and Zhen go head-to-head in Lugano

Lugano Race Walking 1
European Athletics

The 2013 European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting series kicks-off in Lugano on Sunday. (Photo by Organisers)

Beauty and power will be the combined force when the European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meetings circuit of 2013 opens at the 11th Memorial Mario Albisetti in Lugano on Sunday.

Beauty in the form of this stunning city in the south of Switzerland, perched by Lake Lugano and surrounded by the spectacular mountain range of Lugano Prealps.

Power in the form of some of the finest walkers in the sport, with the men's 20km race featuring three medallists from the Olympic Games in London and the women's 10km event led by a medallist from the World Championships.

In London, the men's 20km was an outstanding, classic race which saw China's Chen Ding triumph in an Olympic record of 1:18:46. But it was close, so close, and the two men behind him will be at the front of the pack in Lugano as they look to start this circuit in style.

Guatemala's Erick Barrondo took silver in London, just 11 seconds behind Ding whose teammate Wang Zhen won bronze in 1:19:25.

They will surely be dominant in this event along with another Chinese star who knows all about the endurance of race walking.

Si Tianfeng will look to make his mark after winning bronze in the 50km in London.

Robert Heffernan, the Irish record-holder who was ninth in the 20km and fourth in the 50km in London, leads the European charge and Mexican Eder Sanchez, the bronze medallist from the 20km walk at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009.

China's Liu Hong, the Asian 20km record holder and silver medallist from the World Championships in Daegu in 2011, competes in the women's 10km race in Lugano.

While she has an outstanding record of success, a strong group of European women will be batting alongside her, led by Elisa Rigaudo, the Italian who won 20km bronze at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, Russian Yevdokiya Korotkova and Poland's leader Paulina Buziak. Mirna Ortiz, of Guatemala, will also be a threat.

The junior events will be of the high class, too, with Russian Nadezhda Leontyeva, who was 19 on Tuesday, leading the way, with the foundation of her silver medal performance from the World Junior Championships in Barcelona last summer. Brian Pintado, 17, from Ecuador, will be the favourite in the men's junior race.