Italian racewalker Massimo Stano (© Getty Images)
Italy’s Olympic 20km race walk champion Massimo Stano and China’s multiple global medallist Qieyang Shijie headline the 35km fields for the Dudinska 50, a World Athletics Race Walking Tour Gold event, in the Slovakian spa town of Dudince on Saturday (23).
The event returns for its 41st edition with the same name but new distances, as for the first time 35km races will be staged due to changes in the international championships schedule.
Area and national records could be under threat, with athletes targeting qualifying standards and valuable World Rankings points. Six countries – Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Mauritius, Romania and Slovakia – will also stage their national championships during the 35km events.
Prior to the Tokyo Games, Stano had never won a race outside of Italy, but in Japan he gained Olympic gold ahead of Koki Ikeda and Toshikazu Yamanishi. This time, his target is the entry standard of 2:33:00 for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 in July, as the Italian contests his first serious 35km race. His only other outing over 35km came in 2019, when he clocked 2:35:03 as a split during a 50km event.
“I am a lover of challenges, the 35km excites me a lot,” Stano told the Italian Athletics Federation. As well as targeting the 35km event in Oregon, the 30-year-old also hopes to race the 20km at the European Championships in Munich the following month.
Another top name among the entries is Portugal’s 2019 world silver medallist Joao Vieira, who was fifth in the 50km race walk at last year’s Olympics. A former Dudinska 50 champion will also be on the start line, with 2013 50km winner Erick Barrondo – Guatemala’s 2012 Olympic 20km silver medallist – making a return.
South American 50km race walk record-holder Andres Chocho of Ecuador and Mexico’s Horacio Nava join them, as do Finland’s Olympic 50km ninth-place finisher Veli-Matti Partanen and Germany’s Karl Junghanns, who was sixth in the 35km at last month’s World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Muscat.
China’s national 20km race walk record-holder Wang Kaihua and Zhang Jun, who placed seventh and eighth respectively at last year’s Olympics, make their 35km debuts and line up alongside their compatriot Zhaxi Yangben, the ninth-place finisher in the 35km in Muscat.
Qieyang, who claimed silver in the 20km race walk at the London 2012 Olympic Games but is expected to be awarded the gold following the disqualification of Yelena Lashmanova, is the most interesting entry in the women’s 35km event in Dudince.
The two-time world medallist is a 1:24:45 performer at 20km, achieved last year, and she will debut at the 35km distance. It is her first race of the year and follows her seventh-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics.
Her compatriot Li Maocuo will also compete, fresh from her runner-up finish in the 35km at the World Race Walking Team Championships in Muscat, while her CV also includes world 50km silver from Doha in 2019.
The all-time hero at the longer distance for women, Portugal’s Ines Henriques, is entered along with Muscat 20km third-place finisher Kimberly Garcia of Peru and Ecuador’s Magaly Bonilla, who was sixth in the 35km race in Muscat.
Henriques, the 2017 world 50km race walk champion, set her 35km best of 2:45:51 in 2018.
The top women’s 20km entry is Mayra Carolina Herrera Perez from Guatemala, who clocked her 1:30:27 PB last year in Dudince, while the leading entry in the men’s race is 2017 world champion Eider Arevalo from Colombia.
More than 230 athletes from 28 countries are entered across all the events, with the 1km loop course in the city centre well situated and designed for ease of following the action and fast times.
The start of the 35km is at 8:30am local time for men and 8:31am for women, while the 20km action begins at 1:10pm. A live stream will be available on the event website or YouTube.
Alfons Juck for World Athletics