The second of the 2015 European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meetings saw upset victories for Germany‘s Christopher Linke and Lithuania‘s Brigita Virbalyte over 20km at the 83rd edition of the famous Podebrady meeting in the Czech Republic on Saturday.
The men’s race started to hot up after the eighth kilometre, when the duo of Linke and Slovakia’s defending Podebrady champion Matej Toth moved away from the rest of the field of 58 walkers.
However, after Toth’s super-fast 50km on home soil in Dudince last month, when he won in 3:34:38 and posted the third best time in history, the Slovakian was understandably just short of a bit of sharpness. Linke pushed hard and started to accelerate in the 16th kilometre and was never headed.
Linke, fifth at the 2014 European Athletics Championships over the same distance, won in 1:20.37 to take four seconds off his personal best while Toth came home second, 14 seconds in arrears. London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Erick Barrondo, of Guatemala, was a distant third in 1:21:39.
“The race was very hard. Before the start, I didn’t think I could win, but the first 10k was slow, then it became faster and faster, which was OK for me,” commented Linke, who celebrated his first ever win on the roads outside of his native Germany.
“I tried to push in last 5k and was lucky to win as Matej was attacking me from behind. The conditions were perfect, I prefer hot weather (the weather hovered around 17 degrees Celsius), and the rain was refreshing,” he added.
“I am missing the training for a 20k. I also speeded up (in the second half of the race), but Christopher was even faster. But with only three weeks after Dudince, I am happy a result under 1:21,” reflected Toth, who is preparing for the 50km as his main event at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing this summer.
In the women’s 20km race, local star and 2014 European bronze medallist Anezka Drahotova tried to take the lead in front of her home fans during the early stages of the race.
However, just after 7km, Virbalyté went to the front and gradually put daylight between herself and the rest of the field before crossing the line in 1:31.10, winning by more than a minute.
Slovakia’s Mária Czaková took second place in a personal best of 1:32:23 while Drahotová, who, has had a busy schedule in recent months with two cycling races in the last week alone, took third place in 1:33.30.
“I really did not expect the victory,” said the Lithuanian winner.
“We had sub-zero temperatures in Lithuania recently, so today it was even hot for me at the beginning! But then the clouds arrived and everything was OK. I hate to be alone in a race, so I was really fighting with myself (during the second half of the race). I expected a better time, but hopefully I can beat 1:30 this year, finally.”
The junior winners over 10km were Slovakia‘s Miroslav Uradnik in 42:36 and Italy‘s Noemi Stella in 46:56. The winner in the boys‘ 5km race was Italy‘s Giacomo Bradi in 22:04 while the girls‘ 5km was won by Germany‘s Tereza Zurek in 23:47.
follow the link for photos from Podebrady.