Christopher Linke made quite a mark at the Podebrady walking meeting on Saturday ahead of the city hosting the European Race Walking Cup on what was a great day of action.
Having tasted team gold at the European Race Walking Cup in 2015, brilliant German Christopher Linke set himself up for an individual triumph at the event next month.
Linke won on the course where the title will be competed on 21 May as he triumphed at this 85th staging of the Podebrady walking meeting.
A European Athletics Walking permit event, Linke won the men's 20km in some style in 1:18:59. It was a personal best by 20 seconds, a European lead and within the victory came his quickest time for the 10km (40.20).
Fifth at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2012 – just as he was at the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich – Linke, 28, showed brilliant speed in the Czech spa city to signal that a major medal could be within his sights by the time of the IAAF World Championships in London in August.
Linke repeated his victory from here in 2015, with France’s national champion Kevin Campion producing a pb of his own 1:20:28 in second ahead of Hagen Pohle, also of Germany, in 1:21:41.
“I have trained hard having just come back from a high-altitude camp in Flagstaff in the USA, so I have a lot of energy,” said Linke.
“The conditions were good and I like good weather for a fast race and I am happy.
“I will come back in May. I hope I can win a medal, which is good for me - and for Germany. So perfect.”
It was a high quality event, with Ireland’s 2013 50km world champion Robert Heffernan setting the early pace before Linke, the favourite, took over.
The impressive way he increased the pace turned the event into one where he had total control.
His rivals could not respond and after he had recorded his best-ever 10km mark, by the time of the 15km stage, he was 30 seconds in front of Campion, a lead which just grew, with Linke going even faster as he headed to the line.
When he crossed it, he punched the air in delight with both arms before looking at his watch which flashed back his great time.
As Campion took second and Pohle, who was sixth in 2015, finished third, South African Wayne Snyman was fourth (1:22:01) with Germany’s Karl Junghannss in fifth (1:22:40), France’s Jean Blancheteau breaking the national under-23 record in sixth (1:22:59) and Heffernan in seventh (1:23:13).
Lukas Gdula, who was 24th in 1:31:49, had the reward of successfully defending his Czech national title.
Zivile Vaiciukeviciute led the way for Europe in the women’s race by finishing third as she increased her reputation with a national under-23 record as Colombians Sandra Galvis and Yaseida Carrillo landed a one-two.
Galvis won in a personal best of 1:30:00 from Carrillo in 1:31:14, also a pb, while the progress of 21-year-old Vaiciukeviciute really was eye-catching.
The strides she has taken just since last summer show what a star she could become. At the Olympics in Rio, Vaiciukeviciute was 56th in 1:41:28, and even taking in the conditions and different climate, this time she finished 1:31:40.
Equally, she turned the tide on the Czech Republic’s leading woman walker Anezka Drahotova, who was sixth (1:33:18) as she won the national title.
In Rio, Drahotova finished 10th in 1:30:43 but it is some feat for Vaiciukeviciute to make up 46 places on her.
It was a race dominated by the Colombians from 8km, Vaiciukeviciute fending off the challenge of Mexican Valerie Ortuno (1:31:48) with the Lithuanian’s twin Monika in fifth (1:32:39).
After Linke’s glory, there was further success for Germany in the 10km races.
Leo Kop won the men’s race in 41:19 from France’s David Kuster (41:31) and Poland’s Lukasz Niedzialek (41:53), while Teresa Zurek triumphed emphatically in the women’s in 45:53, almost three minutes faster than France’s Camille Aurrier (48:36) and Finland’s Enni Nurmi (48:40).