With the European Race Walking Cup in Alytus, Lithuania less than a month away, Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom maintained his unbeaten start to the season with a notable victory in Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico on Sunday (21).
Karlstrom won the 20km race walk title at the fifth leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in 1:23:40 to become the first ever European winner in the 17 year history of the race.
Times were of a secondary importance on a hot and humid day but Karlstrom took some notable scalps on the road to Alytus, defeating reigning European silver medallist Diego Garcia from Spain into second place again by nineteen seconds.
Karlstrom also had the beating of two Olympic medallists in Lazaro Cardenas. Guatemala’s 2012 Olympic silver medallist Erick Barrondo was fifth in 1:24:46 with 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Dane Bird-Smith from Australia sixth in 1:25:01.
“World Cup champion in Mexico! Unbelievable feeling crossing the line first after an extremely tough race. Hot and humid battle that ended in the first European victory ever in the 17 year long history of the the Mexican leg in the World Cup!” said a triumphant Karlstrom on his Instagram account.
Karlstrom has a season’s best more than three minutes in excess of his winning time in Lazaro Cardenas - he leads the 2019 European list with 1:20:05 which was set in Adelaide in February - but the Swede showed impressive closing speed, covering the penultimate two kilometre circuit in 7:43 and the final circuit in under eight minutes as well.
After finishing eighth in 2015, Karlstrom made the podium with a bronze medal at the European Race Walking Cup in Podebrady two years ago and on current form, the 28-year-old will be targeting a medal of a different hue in Alytus on 19 May.
His principal rivals next month will include a full strength Spanish team including Garcia, reigning European champion Alvaro Martin and former world and European champion Miguel Angel Lopez, and Authorised Neutral Athlete Vasiliy Mizinov.
In the women’s race, reigning European champion Maria Perez from Spain was the leading European finisher in third in 1:31:11, one place and nine seconds ahead of Portugal’s Ana Cabecinha.