The Lithuanian town of Alytus has played host to the International Race Walking Festival every year since 1975 and the continent’s finest exponents will be lining up there at the 2019 European Race Walking Cup on 19 May.
The last edition of the European Race Walking Cup was held in the Czech spa town of Podebrady in 2017. Germany’s Christopher Linke won the 20km race walk title in 1:19:28 while Ukraine’s Ivan Banzeruk won the 50km race walk in 3:48:15, also leading his country to the team title.
There was also a medal for Lithuania albeit by the very narrowest of margins. Italy’s Antonella Palmisano romped to the individual title in the 20km race walk in 1:27:57 - winning by nearly two minutes despite retracing her footsteps in the closing stages to pick up an Italian flag - but the Lithuanian team packed well with three finishers placing inside the top-20 to clinch the bronze medal by one point from Ukraine.
Their best race walker at present is Brigita Virbalyte-Dimsiene, who finished eighth individually in Podebrady last May. Their team in Alytus is also likely to include the quickly improving Vaiciukeviciute twins - Zivile and Monica - who finished 11th and 17th respectively.
The European Race Walking Cup first took place in 1996 in La Coruna, Spain and has been held biennially with the exception of 2000 and 2001 when the event was moved to odd years.
Some of the all-time greats of race walking to win titles at the European Race Walking Cup include Spain’s Jesus Angel Garcia who won three 50km race walk titles - as well as the first edition on home soil in 1996 - while Poland’s four-time Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski won the 20km race walk titles in 1996 and 2000 and still holds the championship record at 1:18:29.