Giorgi prevails with a gun-to-tape display in Podebrady

Eleonora Giorgi

Italy's Eleonora Giorgi produced a gun-to-tape win in the 20km race walk in Podebrady to retain her title. Photo credit: Czech Athletic Federation / Ales Graf

Whatever lies in store for Italy’s Eleonora Giorgi at the European Race Walking Cup in Alytus, Lithuania next month when she makes her debut over 50km, she will go there with a thumping success to her name after a one-woman show at the Podebrady Walking 2019, a European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting, on Saturday (6).

Giorgi, 29, who has been an impressive competitor over the 20km distance for the past decade, superbly defended her title at the distance by taking control from the start to triumph in the fastest time by a European woman this year.

Giorgi was at the front from the start and by the fifth of the 20 one-kilometre loops, she was already lapping some of her rivals. That was the extent of her dominance in a race which she won in 1:27:46 from Mexico’s world U20 champion Alegna Gonzalez in 1:30:21 and Guatemala’s Mirna Ortiz in 1:31:38. 

And there was a good European presence behind the top three as Lithuanian Zivile Vaiciukeviciute finished fourth in 1:31:57 with Turkey’s Ayse Tekdal in fifth in 1:32:04.

Wearing a blue cap and sunglasses, Giorgi shone brightest with a display that blew the rest of the field apart. Home star Anezka Drahotova, who was third last year ahead of winning European silver in Berlin, and Gonzalez sat in behind early on but the rhythm that Giorgi was quick to find stayed with her throughout and the gap grew with each lap.

Giorgi had taken them through the first lap in 4:25 and by the ninth lap, she was 36 seconds in front of Gonzalez in 39:54 with Vaiciukeviciute 64 seconds behind the leader. 

Initially Zivile, 23, and her twin Monica were side-by-side less than two months out from the European Race Walking Cup in their home country but Zivile then moved ahead of her sibling with Drahotova beginning to fade back through the field. 

The closer the finishing line was, the more Giorgi stamped her authority over the race. She passed through the 14km checkpoint in 1:02:02 with a lead of 1:02 from Gonzalez and over two minutes from Vaiciukeviciute. 

Giorgi hit the bell at 1:23:35, with Gonzalez passing it 2:18 behind as Ortiz had moved into third.

As she saw the line, Giorgi found an even extra spring in her step and she crossed it in delight, putting her hands to her head after one of the best wins of her career. 

Drahotova was a far cry from the form which took her onto the rostrum at last year’s European Championships but she was still crowned national champion once again, finishing 15th in 1:35:43.

Mizinov comes from behind to win men's 20km race walk title

Having missed out on gold by just eight seconds in Berlin last summer, Authorised Neutral Athlete Vasily Mizinov went two places better than he did in the German capital in the men’s 20km race walk in Podebrady. 

In a time that was also 36 seconds better than that which won the European title last year, Mizinov triumphed in 1:20:14 by taking the initiative on the final two laps to beat South African Wayne Snyman in 1:20:17 and Germany’s three-time defending champion Christopher Linke in 1:20:33.

Vasiliy Mizinov won the men's 20km race walk in Podebrady. Photo credit: Czech Athletic Federation / Ales Graf
Vasiliy Mizinov won the men's 20km race walk in Podebrady. Photo credit: Czech Athletic Federation / Ales Graf

For so long it seemed the tall figure of Linke was on his way to a fourth crown in one of his favourite walking venues. He never looked troubled, even though Mizinov, Snyman and France’s Kevin Campion were in a group that was only 10 seconds behind. 

The camera focused in on Linke as though he was heading to another victory in the Czech spa town but the pursuers had time to bridge the gap - and a target to hone in on. 

And bridge the gap they did. With two laps out, Mizinov had moved in front and at the bell, he had established a three-second lead over Snyman which was the advantage which he won by, breaking the tape with his hands raised and a smile across his face. 

With the European Race Walking Cup so close, Mizinov has now put down a marker for the rest having built on his Berlin podium finish with another great display in one of the long-standing race walking events on the calendar.

Behind the top three, Campion took fourth in 1:20:49 with Italy’s Federico Tontodonati (1:21:20) and Great Britain’s Callum Wilkinson (1:21:34) fifth and sixth respectively. 

The Czech men’s title was won by Lukas Gdula, who was 19th overall in 1:27:14.