Perseus Karlstrom of Sweden and Italy's Antonella Palmisano cruised to victory in their respective 20km races at the 88th Podebrady Race Walk meeting in the northern Czech city on Saturday (10).
Breaking from Italy's Matteo Giupponi in the 18th kilometre, Karlstrom collected his fourth victory over the distance this season, clocking 1:19:43, 15 seconds clear of his Italian rival. Karlstrom's performance was nine seconds shy of his season's best set in Kobe in February while Giupponi, who was eighth at the 2016 Olympics, ducked under the 1:20 barrier for the first time.
France's Gabriel Bordier, who stayed with the pair until the 17th kilometre, was third in 1:20:19, a personal best. All three finished inside the 1:21:00 Olympic qualifying standard.
Similarly in the women's race, Palmisano, the 2017 world bronze medallist over the distance, pulled away from Brazil's Erica De Sena in the 17th kilometre to finish unchallenged in her first race of the year. She crossed the line in 1:28:40, her fastest time since taking bronze at the 2018 European Championships.
"After a year of darkness, I finally came back to see the light," said Palmisano, who is rebounding from sub-par 2019 season which included a disappointing 13th place finish at the World Championships.
With achieving the Tokyo qualification standard of 1:31:00 her primary objective, Palmisano said her race plan was to walk cautiously at a 4:30 per kilometre clip. Feeling good in the waning stages, she said, her coach Patrizio Parcesepe let her up the tempo with about five kilometres remaining.
"I was really happy to race, I did it all with a smile," she said. "Unfortunately in Doha I did not have this state of mind but today I have found it again."
De Sena hung on for second, clocking 1:29:14, with Ecuador's Glenda Morejon third in 1:29:32. They too met the qualifying standard for next year's Olympic Games.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics