The race for qualification for the 50km race walk at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year will resume in earnest at the Dudinska 50K, a European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting, in Dudince, Slovakia on Saturday (24).
This long-standing fixture on the race walking calendar is the first significant international event at the 50km race walk since the Olympic qualifying window reopened on 1 September and for most competitors on Saturday, the target will be to duck under the Tokyo 2020 qualifying time of 3:50:00.
With the coronavirus pandemic still affecting the athletics calendar, this prestigious event which was moved from the spring could present one of the few opportunities for athletes to secure their place at the Olympic Games next summer.
Among those with aspirations of making the Olympic start-line next year is reigning champion and home favourite Matej Toth. The Slovakian was contemplating retirement after the Olympic Games this summer but like many athletes around the world, Toth has readjusted his plans and will continue for another year in order to compete at the rescheduled Olympics. He will be 38 next year and looking to become just the second athlete in history to win back-to-back titles in the event.
"My form and well-being are currently at such a level that I trust myself. We will all have one goal. Dudince will be one of the few events where the limit for the Olympics can be met. Achieving it is the only thing that makes sense at the moment,” said Toth at a recent press conference.
At his very best, Toth has surpassed the Olympic qualifying limit by more than 15 minutes. He is the third fastest exponent at the distance in history with 3:34:38 set in Dudince in 2015 behind Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov (3:34:13) and France’s world record-holder and three-time European champion Yohann Diniz (3:32:33).
As well as Toth, other race walkers aiming to secure the Olympic qualifying standard include the Germans Carl Dohmann, the fifth-placer at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, and Karl Junghannss. Dohmann and Junghannss have lifetime bests of 3:45:21 and 3:47:01 respectively.
Other standout names in the line-up include a strong Polish contingent which includes their veteran exponent and last year’s third-placer Rafal Augustyn (3:43:33), Ireland’s Alex Wright (3:48:32) and Brit Cameron Corbishley (3:53:20). The sole non-European competitor in the field is South American record-holder Andres Chocho from Ecuador with a 3:42:57 PB.
In the women’s race which will be held concurrently, the focus of attention will be centred upon Brazil’s Erica de Sena who will be making her debut at the distance. De Sena has an excellent record in the 20km race walk, twice finishing fourth at the World Athletics Championships.