Christopher Linke was some way adrift of his lifetime best of 1:18:59 set in Podebrady last year but the German opened his outdoor season with a comfortable victory at the Podebrady Walking 2017, a European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting, on Saturday (7) afternoon.
Linke arrived in Podebrady fresh from a month-long stint at altitude in Mexico and he pulled away from his Mexican rivals Horacio Nava and Ricardo Ortiz in the 19th kilometre which he covered in 3:57 - his only kilometre split under the four minute-mark.
Linke closed with another fast kilometre of 4:04 to cross the finish-line in 1:21:55 to ensure his third victory at this event in the last four seasons. Linke also won the individual title at the European Race Walking Cup in Podebrady last May in 1:19:28.
That performance ranks as his best performance in a big event but he is looking to break his major championships duck at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships in August having been fifth at the 2014 European Championships, 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships.
“I live in Potsdam - it’s 20 kilometres from Berlin so my big dream is to win a big medal,” said Linke on the European Championships.
Linke was still suffering from some jet-lag after a long journey across the Atlantic and made victory - as opposed to a fast time - his foremost focus. He opened up a commanding winning margin in the last two kilometres, winning by 18 seconds ahead of Nava (1:22:13) and Ortiz (1:22:28).
Linke will race again next weekend at the German Championships in Naumburg and he will also contest the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Taicang, China on 5-6 May.
With home favourite Anezka Drahotova still not in her very best form after injury, Italy’s Eleonora Giorgi dominated the women’s 20km race walk.
Drahotova matched Giorgi in the opening three kilometres (4:21, 4:20 and 4:27) before dropping back through the field in the four kilometre as the Italian eked out a two minute-plus winning margin.
Giorgi broke the tape in a meeting record of 1:28:49 with Lithuanian veteran Brigita Virbalyte-Dimsiene the next to cross the finish-line in 1:31:05. Valentina Trapletti made it two Italians on the podium in third in 1:31:36 while Drahotova faded to fifth in 1:32:22.