Italy sets the standard in Taicang with three medals

Massimo Stano
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Massimo Stano won an individual bronze medal in the 20km race walk at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Taicang, leading Italy to a silver medal in the team race

Europe celebrated eight medals at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Taicang, China this weekend with Italy the leading nation from the continent with three medals – two silvers and bronze.

The standout individual success came in the men’s 20km race walk on Sunday when Massimo Stano took a surprise individual bronze medal, leading Italy to silver in the team race.

In a race won by Japan’s Koki Ikeda in 1:21:13 by nine seconds from China’s Wang Kaihua, Stano - the 2013 European U23 bronze medallist - took his first senior medal with bronze in 1:21:33.

With Francesco Fortunato ninth in 1:23:31 and Giorgio Rubino 17th in 1:24:03, Italy achieved 29 points to clinch silver in the team competition behind Japan (12) and ahead of China (42).

The only other European finisher in the top-10 was Spain’s Alvaro Martin in eighth in 1:23:22. His teammate Miguel Angel Lopez, who won the 20km race walk at the European Championships in Zurich in 2014, was 19th in 1:24:08.

The women’s 20km race walk saw more success for Italy as they won team silver with 38 points from Spain in bronze with 40 points as China took gold with 17.

Eleonora Giorgi, a European Cup silver medallist from 2015, had a fine day as she was fifth overall in the individual race in 1:28:31 as Mexico’s Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez retained her title in 1:26:38.

Italy reached the second step of the podium as Giorgi was backed by Valentina Trapletti in 16th in 1:30:19 and world bronze medallist Antonella Palmisano in 17th in 1:30:29. Spain won team bronze led by Maria Perez, who finished seventh in a lifetime best of 1:28:50.

Ukraine wins inaugural team medal in the 50km

The inaugural staging of the women’s 50km race walk narrowly brought Ukraine team bronze by just a point from Spain - 40 to 41 points.

China’s Rui Liang broke the world record in 4:04:36 and scooped both the team and individual titles while the Ukrainian contingent packed well with their three counters all finishing inside the top-15. Khrystina Yudkina was their leading scorer in 12th in a national record of 4:22:15.

Spain’s Julia Takacs was Europe’s first woman home, finishing eighth in 4:16:37. Portugal’s world champion Ines Henriques, who had to relinquish her world record of 4:05:56, dropped out of the race just after the halfway mark.

There was double medal success for Europe in the men’s 50km race walk as Ukraine won team silver and Poland took bronze.

Marian Zakalnytstyi led the way in fourth for Ukraine in a 3:44:59 PB with Ivan Banzeruk (3:49:17) in 10th and Valeriy Litanyuk in 15th (3:53:05) for a total of 29 points. Hirooki Arai led a Japanese clean sweep of the medals in 3:44:25.

Poland was eight points behind as their triumvirate all made an impression: Rafal Augustyn was seventh in 3:48:22, Rafal Sikora was 11th in 3:49:54 and Adrian Blocki was 19th in 3:54:31.

One place ahead of Blocki was the legendary veteran Spaniard Jesus Angel Garcia. Now 48, Garcia - who won the world 50km race walk title all the way back in Stuttgart 1993 - was the leading Spanish finisher in 18th in a season’s best of 3:53:48.

The second day of the championships on Sunday saw Turkey fly the flag as their women’s team was bronze in the 10km race walk – and were not far off silver.

They scored 15 points as China won gold with 10 points, followed by Ecuador in second with 13 points.  Meryem Bekmez was the first Turkish walker home in 46:14, supported by Ayse Tekdal (47:29) in 10th.