Peruvian race walker Kimberly Garcia (© Getty Images)
Kimberly Garcia and Caio Bonfim, past winners of the Grande Premio Internacional de Rio Maior em Marcha Atletica, are among the leading athletes confirmed for the World Athletics Race Walking Tour Gold meeting on Saturday (7).
Due to the pandemic, Portugal’s top race walking competition hasn’t been staged since 2019. But the event returns this weekend and features strong fields of South American and European athletes.
Bonfim, who won in the Portuguese town back in 2014, is fresh from a victory in Podebrady. His winning time there, 1:18:54, was just seven seconds shy of his PB and makes him the fastest men in this year’s field. The 31-year-old was fourth in Rio Maior in 2019 but will be keen to make it back on to the podium.
Ecuador’s Pan-American champion Brian Pintado was fourth in Podebrady last month, clocking a PB of 1:19:47. It followed on from a fourth-place finish at the World Race Walking Team Championships in Muscat, Pintado’s highest placing in a senior global event.
Pintado’s compatriot David Hurtado, the 2018 world U20 silver medallist, was 12th in Muscat. He placed sixth in Rio Maior in 2019, and last month he clocked a swift 39:20.52 for 10,000m.
Peru’s Cesar Rodrigues may not have the fastest PB of the field (1:22:11), but he beat Bonfim, Pintado and Hurtado at the South American Championships on home soil in Lima earlier this year, clocking a season’s best of 1:23:01. He struggled in the heat of Muscat, though, and placed 21st.
Brazil’s Matheus Correa, who placed fourth at the South American Championships, and Ecuador’s Andres Chocho, twice a podium finisher in Rio Maior, will also be in action this weekend. Chocho has one of the fastest PBs of the field, but this is also his first 20km race of the year.
Marc Tur, the fourth-place finisher over 50km at last year’s Olympics, will be competing below his preferred distance, but the Spaniard should still be competitive. He was second at the Spanish Championships earlier this year, setting a PB of 1:21:36.
Other contenders include Colombia’s Manuel Soto, who was fourth in Rio Maior in 2017, and France’s Kevin Campion.
Kimberly Garcia, winner of the 20km in Rio Maior in 2017, leads the women’s field. The Peruvian race walker has achieved podium finishers in all three of her races this year, but will be seeking her first victory following her runner-up finishes at the South American Championships, the 35km in Dudince, and a third-place finish at the World Race Walking Team Championships in Muscat.
The 28-year-old has a PB of 1:28:56 and a season’s best of 1:32:00. But her 1:32:27 clocking in the heat of Muscat suggests Garcia is capable of a much quicker time in kinder conditions.
The vastly experienced Portuguese duo Ana Cabecinha and Ines Henriques look to be Garcia’s strongest opponents. Cabecinha, who placed 20th at the Olympics last year, heads to Rio Maior off the back of winning the national title. She also has the quickest season’s best of the field (1:31:21).
Henriques, the 2017 world 50km champion, will be contesting her first 20km of the year. She will be keen to atone for her performance in Muscat, where she was unable to finish the 35km.
Clemence Beretta is also one to look out for. The French race walker placed 17th in Muscat, but then rebounded with a PB of 1:32:02 in Podebrady one month later.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics