Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge meeting in Ciudad Juarez (© Institute Chihuahuense del Deporte y Cultura Fisica)
Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez was a class apart while Colombia’s Eider Arevalo came back on top after his 2014 win to highlight the second leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge on Sunday (12) in Ciudad Juarez, north of Mexico.
The 28-year-old Gonzalez was joined in the lead during the first eight kilometres by her countrywoman and namesake Maria Guadalupe Sanchez. From then on, she sped away and hit the halfway mark in 45:03, 19 seconds ahead of Sanchez. The chase pack was a minute behind.
The Olympic silver medallist upped her pace and cruised to her third consecutive victory on home soil in 1:28:59, more than two minutes faster than her winning time on the same course in 2016.
“I achieved my goal and things turned out my way,” said Gonzalez, who will compete again at the Pan American Race Walking Cup in Lima, Peru, May 13-14. "It is a fast course and the weather conditions helped me walk faster than expected. I will continue my preparation plan for the World Championships. We all want to get there in top form."
All medallists from previous editions of the Mexican event – Brazil’s Erica de Sena, Colombia’s Sandra Arenes and Portugal’s Ana Cabecihna and Ines Henriques – caught up with the fading Sanchez by the 12-kilometre mark.
South American record-holder De Sena moved away from that quintet shortly after and went on to secure the runner-up spot in 1:30:49, one place better than 2016. A podium finisher in Mexico since 2013, Cabecihna returned to the top three after her absence last year, ahead of Henriques, runner-up in 2016.
Arevalo returns to winning form
In the men’s race, a group of 23 men stayed together during the first eight kilometres. Mexico’s Omar Pineda increased the tempo and found himself alone in front at the 10-kilometre mark, covered in 41:55, 10 seconds faster than the chase pack.
Pineda, the seventh fastest over the distance in the world last year, continued to enjoy a narrow 10-second lead over six men: Eider Arevalo, Mexico’s defending champion Horacio Nava, Jorge Martinez, Jose Luis Doctor, Canada’s Pan American Games gold medallist Evan Dunfee and Ecuador’s Andres Chocho with two laps remaining (16 kilometres).
From then on, Arevalo joined him in the penultimate lap and finished strong to deny a Mexican double. The 2012 world junior champion crossed the finish line in 1:22:29, more than a minute faster than the winning time in 2016. Pineda settled for second in 1:22:38.
Arevalo has been undefeated in Mexico. He claimed the junior gold at the 2010 World Cup and won as a senior in 2014, both in Chihuahua, four hours south of Ciudad Juarez.
“I felt great throughout the event and increased the tempo with four kilometres to the finish line,” said Arevalo, who gave himself a birthday present after turning 24 three days earlier. "I managed to overtake the Mexican (Pineda) in the last kilometre. I started my season on a good note and it showed me I am on the right path. The main goal is the World Championships in London."
In a battle between two 50km specialists, Chocho overtook Nava with 500 metres to go to finish third in 1:22:47, three seconds ahead of the Mexican. Both won in Ciudad Juarez in 2016: Nava over 20km and the Ecuadorian in 50km. Both winners collected U$5000 for their efforts.
The host country swept all medals in the junior 10km race. Andres Eduardo Oliva dominated the men’s field in 41:21, followed by Gustavo Israel Solis (41:33) and Federico Gonzalez (42:38).
Alegna Aryday Gonzalez was first among the junior women in 45:25, ahead of Vivian Lizbeth Castillo (45:40) and Iliana Mercedes Garcia (47:22). A family 2km walk drew about 700 participants.
A total of 168 athletes from 18 countries competed in Ciudad Juarez. Many of these competitors will travel to Monterrey, also in Mexico, for the third stop of the challenge next Sunday (19). In addition to the junior 10km and elite 20km, the 50km will be contested.
Mexico has been a host of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge since its inception in 2003. After organising a leg of the challenge in Chihuahua annually since 2007, the race moved to Ciudad Juarez for the 2016 edition.
The 10-event challenge series will also travel to Asia, South America and Europe over the next five months before its conclusion at the IAAF World Championships in London.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF