Eleonora Giorgi lived up to her billing to claim a first European Race Walking Cup title as well as a European record over 50km on her debut at the distance and with temperatures hovering around 25C by the finish.
The Italian removed the mark of 4:05:56 set by Portugal’s Ines Henriques that was originally a world best to win in 4:04:50, and did it the hard way.
As Diniz in the men’s event, Giorgi was away from the start, forging a big lead with every stride. She hit the 10 kilometre mark in 48:18 with Henriques (50:06) marginally ahead of Spain’s Julia Takacs and Khrystyna Yudkina from Ukraine. By the 25km mark, Giorgi was more than four minutes clear and wasn't too far off sub-four hour pace in 2:00:37.
As it turned out, the last 15 kilometres were understandably hard for Giorgi. At 31 kilometres, she still had more than four minutes over Takacs who had just moved into undisputed second. And the Spaniard - with experience at the distance - used it to good effect as she increased tempo to finish less than a minute behind Giorgi who still mounted a final rally to walk the last kilometre in 4:42.
Takacs was also under the previous European record in second, also regaining the Spanish record with 4:05:46. Henriques made up the podium in third in 4:13:57 and behind her there were personal bests for Ukraine’s Valentyna Myronchuk (4:15:50) and Nastassia Yatsevich from Belarus (4:16:39).
Bekmez delivers while Orsoni surprises in the U20 races
There was never a doubt about the winner of the women’s U20 10km as Meryem Bekmez destroyed the field to walk solo from the gun.
The young Turk’s only concern was weaving her way through 50km walkers throughout, and it needed a nifty piece of organisation to get the winning tape in place just before the 18-year-old broke it with something to spare.
Turkey was by far the strongest team on paper and so it proved with Evin Demir taking silver - albeit more than a minute behind her teammate. Neither posted a personal best, but in the heat and with medals on their mind rather than times - it didn't matter.
The surprise of the race saw the third Turk Kader Dost fade over the last two kilometres to be first passed by Pauline Stey from France and then in the last 200 metres by Estonia’s Jekaterina Mirotvortseva - the first time that country has made a top four finish in a major race and with a 48:05 national U20 record.
If Bekmez’s gold was an odds-on certainty - Riccardo Orsoni was a surprise U20 men’s winner. The Italian shrieked with delight as he broke the tape, which was hardly a surprise - 30 seconds earlier he had been a distant second.
Fate had intervened to deprive race favourite Lukasz Niedzialek of a gutsy win, when he was pulled over to the pit lane to serve a one-minute suspension in sight of the winning line. Orsoni duly seized his chance to not only win but remove 15 seconds from his PB in 42:43.
Spain’s Pedro Conesa had originally been part of a small group breathing down Niedzialek’s neck, but walked the second half of the race an isolated third only to receive a welcome silver instead. Right at the death, and with medal hopes seemingly dashed, Niedzialek sprung out of captivity and blasted the last 60 metres to make sure of bronze.
The individual winners also doubled their medal hauls as Turkey and Italy came away with the team honours in the U20 races.