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World record! 2:37:15 for Perez in the 35km race walk in Podebrady

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  • World record! 2:37:15 for Perez in the 35km race walk in Podebrady

Maria Perez broke the world record by an impressive 29 seconds to win the 35km race walk title at the European Race Walking Team Championships in Podebrady on Sunday (21) morning to provide the second half of a Spanish double in the 35km race walk.

The Spaniard - setting the first ever official world record by a Spanish athlete, subject to ratification - eclipsed the mark set by Peru's Kimberly Garcia in Dudince earlier this season to break the tape in 2:37:15 to become the first Spaniard to break a world record in any athletics discipline since Francisco Fernandez broke the world 10,000m race walk record in 2008.

"It is a nice feeling to finish the race and the time is a big reward for this. I did not think of any time or any special target before the start, I just wanted to finish the best I could. So, the record time was definitely not my goal today. I am happy to do my best and I am glad to see the race walk can be attractive and can attract such great crowds like in Podebrady.

“I had a difficult season behind me [she was DQ'd at both the World and European Athletics Championships] and I focused on this competition very seriously. We worked on the technique and I wanted to show that I am really well prepared. The technique was still not the best but I am working on it. It will be even better," said Perez.

Perez strolled home to beat the second-placer by more than eight minutes around the 1km Lazensky Park course and after a swift 9:35 through 2km, she was leading many of the men following a combined start. 

By 4km, she was already lapping some of the back markers in the women’s field. Chasing the Spaniard - if you could call it that - were her teammates Raquel Gonzalez and Cristina Montesinos and Italy’s Federica Curiazzi, who by 6km were 47 seconds down. 

A lap later it was 59 seconds and growing to widen just about each of the remaining 28 laps.

Everyone else was more than two minutes in arrears. Perez reached 10km in 46:17, and 1:31 in front of her two Spanish compatriots, with Curiazzi dropping off the back by seven seconds.

Further back, the pain of a race gone wrong was etched on the face of a tearful Lidia Barcella when the Italian was forced to drop out before 13km. The bronze medallist from the last edition of these championships in 2021 was clearly out-of-sorts as Perez forged on defiantly.

By 19km, the leader had lapped fourth-place Curiazzi. She went through 20km in 1:30:59, good enough for eighth best - 11th if you include Russian race walkers whose athletes remain suspended from international competition - on the 2023 European list.

One kilometre later and she had lapped the entire field. Meanwhile, in the race for second, Gonzalez had opened up an 11-second lead over Montesinos; the latter’s face resigned to third at best.

In the closing lap, Montesinos gave it one spirited last go to close the gap when she finished in 2:45:58 to Gonzalez’ 2:45:42. For Montesinos, her bronze medal-winning time represented a lifetime best by over four minutes.

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Curiazzi was fourth in another lifetime best of 2:49:39, and fellow Italian Nicole Colombi was fifth in yet another re-write of a personal best in 2:52:13.

It said something about the standards of a fast race that four out of the first five could all boast new times.

The team race was a 1-2-3 perfect score for Spain with Italy and Ukraine taking silver and bronze respectively.

Martin makes the grade with gold in the 35km 

The men’s winner at 35km was no surprise either as Alvaro Martin was head and shoulders over his rivals, leading from gun to tape.

Smooth, imperious, and inscrutable behind his dark sunglasses, the Spaniard set a national record 2:25:58 to eclipse the mark of the man who finished third, Miguel Angel Lopez.

In between the two red vests, Podebrady favourite Christopher Linke claimed silver and a German record of 2:27:05. Lopez might have relinquished his national record but he came away with individual bronze in 2:27:33 and helped the Spaniards to the team title as their second counter. 

Long-time second-placer Aurélien Quinion was forced to settle for fourth having spent time in the penalty area, a wave of a judge’s hand killing his medal prospects.

Martin started like he finished, ticking off laps in a metronomic 4:10 or thereabouts for the one kilometre loop in a pleasant 14 degrees that was to rise to 21 degrees by the finish of the Czech spa town.

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The Spaniard had a lead of 20 metres after just one lap from Quinion, Lopez and Linke, with a string of walkers further back and the entire field strung out over 200 metres.

The lead was a steady 18 seconds by 7km but had already grown by two seconds on the previous circuit.

There was a nice touch between Martin and Maria Perez as they exchanged a joke when he lapped his teammate halfway through his ninth lap.

Maybe they already knew they would be smiling a lot more by the end.

Martin passed through 10km in 41:27, with the lead having extended to another seven seconds.

Just before 12km, Quinion made a concerted effort to close the gap, and forged a nine-second gap back to Lopez and Linke. He improved it over the next 2km to also cut the deficit on Martin.

Even so, the leader went through 20k in a world-class 1:22:56 with Quinion 18 seconds back, and the next two a further 36 seconds down.

The Frenchman was eating into the leader’s lead so by 25km it was down to 12 seconds.

But it was all to unravel in a few more minutes when the judges sent Quinion into the penalty area for the regulation 3:30 that effectively ended his quest for the podium.

Meanwhile, the new battle for second was taking shape.

Linke creviced a five-second gap over Lopez - the 2022 European champion at the distance - and improved that slightly to make sure of a second place to add to his 20km gold medal from the 2017 European Race Walking Team Championships which were also held in Podebrady.

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The team prize went to Spain with a pained Marc Tur, who won the last edition of the 50km in 2021, doing his bit to make sure of team gold. 

Italy beat Germany to claim silver. The medal colour would have improved by a hue had it not been for a costly time penalty for Nathaniel Seiler in the very late stages.

Full results here.

Paul Warburton for European Athletics

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