Christopher Linke produced two high profile victories in Podebrady, Czech Republic last year and the German will be defending his title in the 20km race walk at the Podebrady Walking 2018, a European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting, on Saturday (7).
Linke set his lifetime best of 1:18:59 to win at this meeting last year - and move to second on the German all-time lists behind Andreas Erm (1:18:42) - before winning six weeks later at the European Race Walking Cup, clocking another fast time of 1:19:28 in spite of the unhelpfully warm and humid conditions. On that day, he defeated reigning European champion Miguel Angel Lopez from Spain by 53 seconds.
Linke, who has been training at altitude in Mexico ahead of his season’s opener, fell short of the medals at the IAAF World Championships in London, but a fifth-place finish equalled his best ever showing in a major championships. A medal is his target at the European Championships on home soil in Berlin this August.
Third behind Linke twelve months ago, teammate Hagen Pohle will be in the line-up again along with Poles Dawid Tomala and Rafal Fedaczynski along with Mexican Horacio Nava.
The focus of attention in the women’s race will be the multi-talented home favourite Anezka Drahotova. The Czech won this race four years ago at the age of 18 before winning the world U20 10,000m race walk title in Eugene and a bronze medal in the 20km race walk at the European Championships in Zurich.
Drahotova’s rapid progress has been halted in recent seasons by a back injury but the 22-year-old opened her season in Dudince last month with a promising runner-up finish in 1:30:35, her fastest time in two years.
Drahotova holds the Czech record at the distance at 1:26:53 but the fastest entrant on paper is Italy’s Eleonora Giorgi, who also holds her country’s national record at 1:26:17.