Lebogang Shange en route to victory in the 20km in Monterrey (© organisers)
Lebogang Shange became the first African athlete to win a race in the Mexican leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Monterrey, where Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez and Andres Chocho also enjoyed a successful weekend during the two-day Memorial Jerzy Hausleber.
Absent last year in Monterrey, world and Olympic silver medallist Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez was a class apart, moving away from the rest of the field after six kilometres on the two-kilometre loop course around Parque Fundidora.
Despite the hot conditions, Gonzalez cruised to a course record of 1:27:46, her third fastest time ever, only slower than her silver medal performances at the 2016 Race Walking Team World Cup in Rome and the 2017 World Championships in London.
Defending champion and 2017 Race Walking Challenge winner Erica de Sena settled for second in 1:30:47, followed by Portugal’s Inês Henriques, one placing lower from 2017.
In the men’s 20km, warm conditions hindered faster times from the start. South Africa’s Lebogang Shange was joined in the lead group by Mexico’s Carlos Sanchez, Andres Oliva and Ever Palma as well as Ecuador’s Maurico Arteaga.
Shange, fourth at the 2017 World Championships, made his move in the second half of the race and went on to win in 1:24:32. On his second competitive trip to Mexico, the 27-year-old improved his third place performance from Ciudad Juarez in 2018.
Sánchez followed him next at the finish line 27 seconds later. Arteaga overtook Olivas for bronze in 1:25:10.
Pre-race favourites suffered in the heat and were never a factor in the race, including 2015 Pan American Games gold medallist Evan Dunfee, who opted for the 20km after winning the 50km in Monterrey last year.
Brazil’s Caio Bonfim, fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games, finished 11th, one place ahead of Mexico’s José Luis Doctor, runner-up in 2017.
Spain’s 2015 World Champion Miguel Ángel López and Mexico’s Eder Sanchez, winner multiple times of the Mexican race, were relegated to 15th and 16th respectively.
50km wins for Chocho and Morales
On Sunday, Ecuador’s Andrés Chocho returned to winning days on Mexican soil over 50km as he did in Ciudad Juarez in 2016 with a South American record.
The 2015 Pan American Games gold medallist took on the challenge of two seasoned Mexican athletes: José Leyver Ojeda and Omar Zepeda, who have taken three victories at home since the Race Walking Challenge was introduced in 2003.
Chocho bided his time and moved away from the Mexican duo in the second half of the race to win in 3:50:27, three minutes ahead of Ojeda (3:53:37). Zepeda returned to the podium in third with 3:57:31.
Mexico’s Horacio Nava opted for his specialist event but was left out of contention, eventually finishing fifth in 4:02:28.
Six women also contested the longer distance compared to one the previous year. The sole competitor in 2017, Erika Jazmine Morales, improved her time by almost 30 minutes to set a new Mexican record of 4:32:53.
USA’s Erin Taylor-Talcott (4:54:39) and Mexico’s Lizbeth Silva (4:58:41) also joined her on the podium.
A junior 10km race was also held and local athletes swept all medals, led by César Córdova (42:35) and defending champion Alegna Ariday Gonzalez (45:20). They will both represent Mexico at the IAAF Team Race Walking World Cup in Taicang, China, May 5-6.
The event carried the name of 'Jerzy Hausleber Memorial', in honour of the late Polish coach who is regarded as the 'father' of Mexican race walking. He paved the way for success since Jose Pedroza’s silver medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF