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All roads lead to Podebrady! One month until the European Race Walking Team Championships

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  • All roads lead to Podebrady! One month until the European Race Walking Team Championships

Europe’s race walkers will congregate in the Czech spa town of Podebrady for the 2023 European Race Walking Team Championships - arguably the most significant race walking fixture outside the World Athletics Championships in Budapest this summer - which takes place one month today on 21 May. 

The glorious tree-lined boulevards of Podebrady will be familiar to many prospective participants as the Czech town played host to this competition in 2017 as well as the last edition in 2021. And Podebrady has also been assigned the 2025 edition of the European Race Walking Team Championships. 

More details on how to follow the European Race Walking Team Championships will be communicated in the upcoming weeks but the event will be streamed live through the European Athletics YouTube channel.

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A record third 20km race walk title for Karlstrom?

Perseus Karlstrom’s run of success at the European Race Walking Team Championships dates back to the 2019 edition in Alytus, Lithuania and the Swede will be in contention to win an unprecedented third successive individual title in the 20km race walk.

As is customary, Karlstrom traded in the bitter Swedish climate this winter for the warmer, sunnier climes of Australia where his preparations clearly went well. The 32-year-old has ownership of the two fastest times in Europe this year in the 20km race walk: 1:19:27 and 1:19:44.  

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Karlstrom will face another strong challenge from the Spaniards who dominated the overall proceedings in Podebrady two years ago, winning five of the 12 titles on offer including the men’s and women’s 20km team titles courtesy of individual second, third and fourth-place finishes in both races. 

And the Spaniards will arrive in Podebrady replete with individual and team title prospects across the programme. Described on social media as their Dream Team, their squad includes European 20km race walk champions Alvaro Martin and Maria Perez although both race walkers will be stepping up in distance to the 35km distance in Podebrady. 

Perez, who won the 20km race walk title at the 2018 European Athletics Championships, has been in particularly prolific form this year, smashing her Spanish record in the 20km race walk by over one minute with 1:25:30 - a time which has only been surpassed by Russian race walkers from a European context - and even breaking the Spanish 10km record en route.

If the conditions cooperate and she can keep her form (Perez was disqualified at the World Athletics Championships and European Athletics Championships last year) could Perez even challenge her European record of 2:39:16 in the 35km race walk next month?

And the Spaniards will have excellent individual and team prospects in the men’s 35km race walk. Aside from Martin, their team includes former world and European 20km race walk champion Miguel Angel Lopez and Marc Tur, who has the distinction of being the last ever winner of the 50km race walk which was discontinued in 2021.

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Ntrismpioti to fly the flag for Greece again

Another European champion who looks set to toe the start-line in Podebrady is Antigoni Ntrismpioti. The Greek veteran was one of the unlikely breakthrough stars at the European Athletics Championships in Munich last summer when she unexpectedly swept the 20km and 35km race walk titles at the age of 38.

But it was at the European Race Walking Team Championships two years ago when Ntrismpioti came to wider prominence, becoming the inaugural winner of the 35km race walk as well as the first ever Greek gold medallist in a championships which dates back to 1996 in terms of antiquity. 

Ntrismpioti could seek to extend her continental dominance in the 35km race walk but she also has the option of stepping down in distance to contest the 20km race walk, a distance at which she has shown herself to be just as adept at.

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Like Karlstrom - and many other European race walkers for that matter - Ntrismpioti also spent the winter months training in Canberra. In her last competitive test before flying back to Europe, Ntrismpioti smashed the Greek record in the 20km race walk with 1:28:12. Only Perez has walked faster this year among her European rivals. 

The programme also includes individual and team U20 10km races. Jose Luis Hidalgo took a one-two for Spain in the men’s race two years ago while Eliska Martinkova marched to gold on home soil in the U20 women’s race by 75 seconds - the biggest winning margin of the day.  

Steven Mills for European Athletics

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