Evelyn Inga on her way to winning the 50km at the Pan American Race Walking Cup (© Atletismo Peruano)
Mexico’s Isaac Palma ruled on his home state and Peru’s Evelyn Inga posted a breakthrough performance to dominate the 50km at the Pan American Race Walking Cup in Mexico in the south-eastern city of Lazaro Cardenas on Sunday (21), the fifth leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge.
Competing in just the third 50km race of his career, the first one in two years, 28-year old Palma was inspired to complete in his native state of Michoacan.
With temperature at 21C at the start, Palma set the leading pace from the beginning and reached the first 10km in 45:55, 25 seconds ahead of his compatriot Horacio Nava and Ecuador’s 2017 Pan Am Cup champion Claudio Villanueva.
As he hit the 20km mark in 1:31:24, his lead increased to a minute and a half. As temperatures rose to 31C with six laps (12km) remaining, Palma slowed down by almost a minute between 42 and 48 kilometres, but he regained a more consistent pace to win in 3:49:39, almost eight minutes faster than his personal best.
Jorge Armando Ruiz came from behind and overtook Horacio Nava in the last lap to secure the silver medal in 3:56:07, half a minute ahead of Nava (3:56:39), a three-time Olympian at the distance.
“It is a great day today, to win at home in front of such a great crowd,” said Palma. “That’s the result I expected. I trained at high altitude in Mexico City and all my sacrifice paid off.”
It was his second challenge win after dominating the 20km also on home soil in Chihuahua in 2013.
In the women’s field, Brazil’s Viviane Santana set the early pace, but 21-year old Evelyn Inga bided her time. She move to the front at 20km, covered in 1:42:52, and never looked back to achieve a breakthrough performance on her debut at the distance.
Inga, the 2017 Pan American U20 bronze medallist, crossed the finish line in 4:22:57 and improved the national record by almost 20 minutes. She became the second Peruvian to take a challenge victory, two years after Kimberly Garcia won in Rio Major, Portugal.
She also joined Garcia as the only two Peruvians to take the continental Cup, six years after Garcia’s victory in Guatemala.
Johanna Ordoñez (4:24:49) and Magaly Bonilla (4:33:52), sixth and 11th at the 2018 World Race Walking Team Championships, followed home to complete a South American medal sweep. Defending champion Nair da Rosa Rosa finished eighth. In two years, the number of women competitors at 50km went from three to 16.
The Pan American Cup drew 170 athletes from 22 countries in its return to Mexico for both distances after 29 years.
The 11-race IAAF Race Walking Challenge series will resume in Taicang on 11-12 May and will conclude in October with the Around Taihu International Race Walking in Suzhou, also in China.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF