Nathan Deakes of Australia wins the 20km in Tijuana (© Conade)
Germany's Melanie Seeger and Australia's Nathan Deakes posted convincing 20km wins on Saturday 19 March in the inaugural event of the 2005 IAAF Race Walking Challenge, which concludes today in this northern city with the men's 50km race.
Seeger, fifth at the 2004 Athens Olympics, posted a surprising win over the two pre-race favourites, Australia's Olympic bronze medallist and IAAF World Rankings Event leader Jane Saville and Italy's Challenge defending champion Elisa Rigaudo.
The 27-year old completed the 10-loop 2km course along the Paseo de los Heroes Avenue in 1:30:48, the slowest winning time in the three-year old history of the event, but enough to place the German champion and record holder in front of the 2005 Challenge standings.
Seeger, eighth at the 2003 World Championships and ninth at the 2004 IAAF World Cup in Naumburg 2004, achieved her first win in her IAAF Race Walking Challenge debut.
Saville had to be content with a distant second (1:32:08), the first time the Aussie has reached the podium in Tijuana. Defending champion Rigaudo finished third in 1:32:24, ahead of Portugal's Susana Freitor (1:32:46), who was third last year.
In the men's race, Deakes resisted the attack of the Mexican race walkers and made his move at the right time to post his first win on Mexican soil, in a time of 1:21:28.
Two Olympians, Omar and Bernardo Segura, tried to bridge the gap and catch him, but had to trail in second and third, respectively. Omar clocked 1:21:45, one second faster than his cousin, the 1996 Olympic bronze medallist, who owns the fastest time over this course after his 1:19:06-hour win in 1993.
Deakes, the 2004 Olympic and World Cup bronze medallist, is the third fastest man over 20km this season and hopes to win his first World Championships medal this August in Helsinki.
With Olympic and World Championship runner-up Francisco Javier Fernandez a last minute absence, Olympic fifth place finisher Juan M. Molina was the highest Spanish ranked, in fourth (1:21:53).
Eder Sánchez confirmed himself as the newest Mexican hopeful with his brave fifth-place performance in a personal best of 1:22:18.
Sanchez, who will turn 19 in May, was fourth at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy. He won the 10km in Tijuana last year and was second over the same distance at the World Cup in Naumburg.
Italy's 2004 Olympic champion Ivano Brugnetti was relegated to eighth after a 1:23:52-hour effort. Brugnetti, who was also the 1999 World 50km champion and took third place in Tijuana last year and overall in the 2004 IAAF Walking Challenge, was forced to stop training for one month due to a pelvis microfracture at the end of December. He and Rigaudo arrived in Tijuana after a three-week high altitude training camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Looking ahead to the 50km
The first leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge - with the attendance of over 120 participants from 24 countries- ends on Sunday with the 50km race, featuring three-time World championships medallist Jesús Angel García of Spain and other top class walkers.
The list includes China's Shucai Xing and Chenglian Zhao, who clocked 3:37:58 and 3:38:56, respectively, to finish second and third at the Chinese Championships in Nanning.
Russia's best men are Ilya Markov, the 1996 Olympic runner-up and the 1999 World 20km champion, and Nikolay Matyukhin, who claimed the 1999 World 50km silver. Germany counts on 2003 World Championships bronze medallist Andreas Erm, the fastest in the field with a personal best of 3:37:46.
Other heralded athletes are Poland's Roman Magdziarczyk, sixth in Athens, and Canada's Tim Barrett, who finished fifth last year. Mexico's defending champion Germán Sánchez, Omar Zepeda, Mario Iván Flores, Rogelio Sanchez, Jesus Sanchez and Daniel Garcia hope to please the crowd with a home win, in a race which serves as the trials for the World Championships in the Finnish capital.
Daniel Garcia, the 1997 World 20km champion in Athens, returns to competition following a four-year absence to recover from a surgery which healed a torn muscle in his right leg. Ecuador' Jefferson Perez, the 1996 Olympic and 2003 world champion at 20km, was initially registered in the 50km, but had to withdraw due to a minor injury.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
1. Nathan Deakes (AUS) 1:21:28
2. Omar Segura (MEX) 1:21:45
3. Bernardo Segura (MEX) 1:21:46
4. Juan M. Molina (ESP) 1:21:53
5. Eder Sánchez (MEX) 1:22:18
6. Andrés Choco (ECU) 1:23:14
7. Christian Berdeja (MEX) 1:23:27
8. Ivano Brugnetti (ITA) 1:23:52.
1. Melanie Seeger (GER) 1:30:48
2. Jane Saville (AUS) 1:32:08
3. Elisa Rigaudo (ITA) 1:32:24
4. Susana Freitor (POR) 1:32:46
5. Natalie Saville (AUS) 1:35:01
6. Lyudmila Arkhipova (RUS) 1:36:03
7. Yeliz Ay (TUR) 1:38:37
8. Miriam Ramón (ECU) 1:39:27