Andres Chocho on his way to winning the 50km in Ciudad Juarez (© Chihuahua Sports Institute)
Ecuador’s Andres Chocho broke his South American 50km record by more than three minutes while Mexico’s Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez and Horacio Nava dominated the 20km on home soil in Ciudad Juarez, the second stop of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge on Sunday (6).
Chocho provided the highlight of the day by improving his South American 50km race walk record to 3:42:57 to take his first challenge victory with the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.
The Pan American champion moved away from the lead group after 30km and never looked back to erase his previous mark of 3:46:00, set when finishing eighth at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
“It is a great motivation to start the season by breaking the record," said Chocho. "I'd had an intense preparation and it paid off. I will now do some 20km races in preparation for the World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome and then try a double (20km and 50km) at the Olympic Games."
The next four men to cross the finish line also benefited from great weather conditions to post personal bests: Mexico’s 38-year old Omar Zepeda (3:45:28) and Jorge Alejandro Martinez (3:51:11), Colombia’s Jose Montana (3:52:48) and Edward Araya, who took his Chilean record under the four-hour barrier to 3:58:54. Mexico’s defending champion Jose Leyver Ojeda did not start.
Zepeda and Martinez met the standard set by their national federation to represent Mexico at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Rome 2016 in May.
Gonzalez successfully defended her 20km race walk title from last year, when she became the first Mexican woman to take a challenge victory.
The Pan American champion held off the challenge from Portugal’s Ines Henriquez to cross the finish line in 1:31:04, the fastest winning time at this meeting for 11 years.
Henriques, three-time winner in Mexico (2011-2013), returned to the top three after missing out on the podium in the past two years. She stopped the clock at 1:32:48.
Third in the 2015 challenge overall standings, Brazil’s Erica de Sena lost contact with the leading duo on the last two laps on Paseo Triunfo de la Republica and had to settle for third in 1:34:04, the same position she achieved in 2015.
Colombia’s Sandra Lorena Arenas, winner in Mexico in 2014, finished a distant sixth in 1:36:55.
A regular competitor in the challenge, 50km specialist Nava finally savoured the taste of victory over 20km in his home state of Chihuahua. The Olympian of two Games led a 1-2 for Mexico as he crossed the finish line in 1:23:32, 23 seconds ahead of 22-year-old Julio Cesar Salazar.
Nava found himself in the lead at the half way mark. He started to break from the lead group and was only joined by Salazar with two laps to go. Nava kept pushing and the latter could not answer and had to settle for second place, 50 meters behind.
“The initial plan was to improve my speed, but I felt well and moved to the front,” said Nava, who plans to attack personal best over the longer distance in Dudince on 19 March. “It’s a special win, the first one since I became a father late last year. My ultimate goal this season is the 50km at the Olympic Games.”
South Africa’s Lebogang Shange, second in the opening leg of the challenge in Australia two weeks ago, completed the podium finishers with 1:24:41.
Colombia’s 2011 world bronze medallist Luis Fernando Lopez finished sixth in 1:25:57. Defending champion Eder Sanchez and Canada’s Pan American silver medallist Inaki Gomez did not finish.
The top eight in the 20km and 50km races took a piece of the US$50,000 prize money, including US$5000 for the winners.
Earlier in the day, Mexicans Valeria Ortuno (45:53) and Andres Eduardo Olivas (41:30) dominated the junior 10km races.
A record 181 race walkers from 20 countries representing all continents contested the event.
After Ciudad Juarez, the 11-leg series will travel to the Slovak town of Dudince for the next stop on 19 March. The challenge will conclude at the Olympic Games in Rio in August.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF