Berlin 2018 champion Ines Henriques to compete in European Race Walking Cup

Ines Henriques
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Portugal's Ines Henriques won the inaugural staging of the women's 50km race walk at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships

Reigning European 50km race walk champion Ines Henriques will head the Portuguese team going to the European Race Walking Cup in Alytus, Lithuania on 19 May.

Henriques, who also holds the European record with 4:05:56 set when she won the inaugural world title in London two years ago, will start as the gold medal favourite for the first ever women’s Cup race over 50km

However, the 39-year-old will be looking for better fortune than her outing at the last Cup in 2017 when she was disqualified in the 20km event. Nevertheless, Alytus will be Herniques’ 12th appearance in the European Race Walking Cup having competed in every single edition since it was inaugurated in 1996 apart from the first one in the Spanish city of La Coruna.

Curiously, Henriques has yet to win an individual Cup medal with her best finish being seventh in 2007 – although she helped Portugal’s women team gold in 205, silver in 2013 and bronze in 2015 – however, her Alytus team mate Ana Cabecinha knows the feeling of standing on the podium having taken the 20km silver medal two years ago in Podebrady, Czech Republic.

The Portuguese team includes the evergreen 43-year-old Joao Vieira, who will contest the men’s 50km. The two-time European Athletics Championships 20km race walk medallist has competed in all 13 editions of the Cup with a best finish of fourth in the 2003 20km.

In Alytus, Ana Cabecinha will be reunited on the start line with the winner in Podebrady, Antonella Palmisano, after the latter was named as part of 22-strong Italian team for the Cup earlier this week.

Palmisano, who also won bronze medals at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 and in Berlin over 20km, will be bidding to become only the second woman to retain a European Race Walking Cup title.

She will have accompanying her in the 20km Valentina Trapletti, eighth in Podebrady, and Eleonora Dominici which will make Italy strong contenders for team medals again after having taken the silver in 2015 and 2017.

Europe’s fastest woman over 20km last year, Eleonora Giorgi, will step up and make her debut over the 50km distance in Alytus.

“We have a mix of experience and youth. From the near veteran Marco De Luca to the school student Gabriele Gamba but I have three tips: Stano (Massimo Stano, third at last year’s IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships last year), Palmisano and Giorgi. Massimo wants to impress in Alytus not only to secure selection for the Doha World Championships but because he has become a man that his rivals are looking out for,” said the Italian federation technical director Antonio La Torre on the announcement of the team.