For the first time in an Olympic-year edition of the European Athletics Championships which begins in 200 days in Rome from 7-12 June, the men’s and women’s 20km race walk will feature on the competition programme.
And the race walking events will enjoy star billing in the Italian capital.
For the first time at any major championships since the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing - and for the first time at the European Athletics Championships since Gothenburg 2006 - the races will conclude inside the main stadium and the winners will be crowned in the Stadio Olimpico.
The race walkers will embark on 19 laps of the Foro Italico - the city’s iconic Olympic Park - before concluding their journeys in the Stadio Olimpico where huge crowds are anticipated throughout the championships, the first time Roma has staged the European Athletics Championships since 1974.
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For reigning Olympic champions Massimo Stano and Antonella Palmisano, there could be no better send-off as they prepare to defend their Olympic 20km race walk titles in Paris later in the summer.
Palmisano could also open the Italian medal rush as the women’s 20km race walk is the first medal event on the programme at 6.35pm local time on the first day proper of the European Athletics Championships on Friday 7 June.
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And for Stano, there is also the possibility of emulating the great Maurizio Damilano who won gold in the 20km race walk at the 1987 World Athletics Championships which were also held in the Italian capital.
"I was talking about it with Maurizio Damilano, who entered the Stadio Olimpico as a winner [in the 20km race walk] at the 1987 World Athletics Championships. When I competed in Beijing 2015 I came 20th but the emotion of entering that packed stadium was crazy.
“I can't imagine what it means to be the first to enter the Stadio Olimpico: it would be fantastic, because the European Championship is the only title I'm missing,” said Stano, who also won the 35km race walk title at the 2022 World Athletics Championships.
Palmisano provided the second part of the Italian double in the 20km race walk at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and she is equally excited by the prospect of competing in a home championship and the atmosphere of an Olympic Stadium finish.
“The finish of the race will be inside the stadium and it will be so beautiful. This hasn't happened since the 2015 World Championships, and I have goosebumps when I think about it.
“We will need the support of all the people in the stadium and those who will cheer for us from home. Their affection will be crucial, and I promise them that we will have fun together. It would be great to see you all at the Stadio Olimpico, I look forward to seeing you in Roma 2024,” said Palmisano.
Francesco Fortunato won gold at the European Race Walking Team Championships in Podebrady in June and he is also relishing the prospect of representing L’Azzurri again in Rome next June.
"The Roma 2024 European Championships will be a great opportunity for all Italian race walkers and I am happy that the finish of the race walk course will be inside the Stadio Olimpico. I have already experienced what it means to compete in Rome during the Golden Gala. It will be really exciting to experience that atmosphere again,” he said.
Italy won 11 medals at the last edition of the 2022 European Athletics Championships in Munich including three gold medals courtesy of Marcell Jacobs (100m), Gianmarco Tamberi (high jump) and Yemaneberhan Crippa (10,000m).