Alvaro Martin and Maria Perez made it a Spanish double in the 20km race walk at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships and they will be in contention to repeat at the European Race Walking Cup in Altyus, Lithuania on 19 May.
Martin won the men’s race by six seconds last August in 1:20:42 while Perez triumphed in the women’s race by 27 seconds, setting a championship record of 1:26:36 on the Breitscheidplatz.
A knee operation in January interrupted Martin’s start of the season and the strength of the opposition will make this race a real test, not least from his fellow Spaniards.
Martin is joined on the start line by teammate Diego Garcia, who was second behind him in Berlin, and Miguel Angel Lopez, who won a highly competitive race at the Spanish Championships.
He might have been sixth in Berlin behind his two compatriots but Lopez was the 2014 European champion and the 2015 world champion at this distance. He also won this title in his hometown of Murcia four years ago before finishing runner-up to Germany’s Christophe Linke in Podebrady two years ago.
Linke, too, will be one of the favourites to retain his crown – which would be a first for the men at this distance – but perhaps the biggest threat to the Spaniards comes in the shape of Authorised Neutral Athlete Vasily Mizinov.
He was third in Berlin but showed immense power to win the European Athletics Permit meeting in Podebrady at the start of April, beating Linke and others in the process.
The British pair of Callum Wilkinson, who produced a British U23 record of 1:21:34 in Podebrady, and Olympic sixth-placer Tom Bosworth will also be in the mix for individual and team medals.
It is the first time that Lithuania has hosted this event which took place for the first time in La Coruna, Spain in 1996 when household names such as Poland’s Robert Korzeniowski and Spain’s Jesus Angel Garcia were among the winners.
In Alytus, Marius Ziukas will be their big hope in the men’s 20km race walk while in the women’s event, Brigita Virbalyte-Dimsiene and twins Zivile and Monika Vaiciukeviciute will be looking to make an impression but can they stop Perez?
She showed her desire for more titles when she was crowned Spanish champion in Oropesa del Mar in March, winning in 1:30:55. That puts her sixth in this year’s list which are topped by Italy’s Eleonora Giorgi who won in Podebrady in 1:27:46 by nearly three minutes.
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) April 6, 2019
Giorgi, however, will be stepping up in distance to contest the women’s 50km race walk which makes its debut on the programme next month. Reigning world and European champion Ines Henriques from Portugal could toe the start-line in Alytus while European bronze medallist Julia Takacs has been named on the Spanish team.
Ukraine dominated the men’s 50km race walk two years ago, taking first and second individually courtesy of Ivan Banzeruk (3:48:15) and Ihor Hlavan (3:48:38) as well as the team title. The 2019 European list is currently headed by Norway’s Havard Haukenes who won the Dudince 50km in a lifetime best of 3:42:50.
The 50km race walk races will start off the action at 8:00am local time, with the women’s U20 10km an hour later, the men’s 10km U20 at 10:30am before the men’s 20km (2:30pm) and the women’s 20km (4:30pm).