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UK Athletics

Race Walking Grand Prix at Royal Leamington Spa

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The 7th Royal Leamington Spa Grand Prix of Race Walking, an EAA Permit meeting took place in hot and sunny conditions in Victoria Park, Leamington on Saturday 17 June, among the spectators was UK Athletics’ President Lynn Davies, having just heard news of his CBE award on the Queen’s Birthday honours list.


The first event was the Men’s 50 kilometres; the majority of the field chasing the sub 4 hour qualifying time for the European Championships in Gothenburg. World bronze medallist Alex Schwazer of Italy led from the gun and was on schedule for sub 3 hours 50 pace.


Schwarzer, then retired just before the 20 kilometres point complaining of stomach cramps, he put down to his drinks. The cruel conditions began to take their toll, but Portugal’s Augusto Cardoso battled on to win the race in 4.10.11. He was followed home in second place by his compatriot Luis Silva who clocked 4.25.55. The first British athlete home was Steve Arnold (Nuneaton Harriers) who battled through the heat of the day to clock 5.11.24 and take third place.


1 Augusto Cardoso (Portugal) 4:10.11; 2. Luis Silva (Portugal) 4:24.55; 3. Steve Arnold (Nuneaton Harriers) 5:11.24

In the Women’s 20 Kilometres, Italy’s former IAAF World Race Walking Cup bronze medallist Elisa Rigaudo produced the performance of the day as she clocked a world class 89.11 to seal her victory.  Rossella Giordano made it an Italian one - two, clocking 93.00.


The leading British performance came from Johanna Jackson (Redcar WC) who produced her 3rd PB this year and came close to breaking the 100 minute barrier until the final stages. Jackson held on to take 45 seconds off the time she set at last month’s IAAF World Cup of Race Walking and finished in sixth place.


1. Elisa Rigaudo (Italy) 89:11; 2. Rossella Giordano (Italy) 93:00; 3. Vera Santos (Portugal) 94.13; 4. Ann Loughnane (Ireland) 95:54; 5. Monica Svensson (Sweden) 96:18; 6. Johanna Jackson (England) 101:00; 7. Bridget Kaneen (Isle of Man) 123:48

The Men’s 20 Kilometres saw the biggest field of the day. Nobody was able to match France’s Yohann Diniz’s searing pace and he had soon built up a comfortable lead ahead of the chasing pack. The first high profile casualty of the race was Italy’s former European cup silver medallist Alessandro Gandellini, who retired with back problems. The British challenge was being led by Dominic King (Colchester Harriers) and Daniel King (Colchester Harriers), however Dominic was the first to fall foul of the judges just before halfway.


Meanwhile upfront Diniz despite suffering in the heat was pulling away from the field and went on to finish in 83.19, he was followed in second place by Poland’s Rafal Augustyn who clocked 84.31. Ireland’s Colin Griffin made up for the disappointment of the La Coruna by clocking 85.09 for fourth place and to win the small nations international match. The first British walker to cross the line was Wales’ Mark Williams (Tamworth AC) in twelfth place.


1. Yohann Diniz (France) 83.19; 2 Rafal Augustyn (Poland) 84.31; 3 Dennis Langois (France) 85.04; 4 Colin Griffin (Ireland) 85.09; 5 Hannes Tonat (Germany) 89.18; 6 Herve Davaux (France) 89.26; 7 Jamie Costin (Ireland) 89.35; 8 Maik Berger (Germany) 91.59; 9 Nicolas Perrier (Switzerland) 99.06; 10 Bruno Grandjean (Switzerland) 100:37; 11 Jacob Sorenson (Denmark) 102:15; 12 Mark Williams (Wales) 102:32


In the Junior Men’s 10 Kilometres, home favourite Nick Ball led from the gun as he chased the Bejing Qualifying time. However at the seven kilometre point the judges removed not only Ball but also Germany’s Maik Schneider who was in second place. This left his German teammate to come through to take the title in 46.49. He also led the German Team to a victory in the international match between England and Germany. Ben Wears (Redcar WC) took second place in 48.08 ahead of German Jannek Schweer.


1 Christopher Linke (Germany) 46:49; 2 Ben Wears (England) 48:08; 3 Jannek Schweer (Germany) 48:27; 4 Christopher Burki (Switzerland) 48:46; 5 Andreas Nielsen (Denmark) 50:42; 6 Simon Hambridge (England) 51:58; 7 Casper Hanson (Denmark) 53:21; 8 Jack Tomlin (England) 53:48.


The Junior Women’s race saw a German one-two with Jenny Grasse taking the title in 50.38 in a close battle with her compatriot Sonja Birkemeyer (50.55). Behind them Rebecca Mersh of Sheffield AC made up for the disappointment of disqualification in the World Cup in La Coruna to take third place in 52.41. Sarah Foster (Thanet AC) was the second English counter in fifth place (55.03).


1 Jenny Grasse (Germany) 50:38; 2 Sonja Birkemeyer (Germany) 50:55; 3 Rebecca Mersh (England) 52:41; 4 Laura Reynolds (Ireland) 54.55; 5 Sarah Foster (England) 55:03; 6 Sandra Krause (Germany) 56:29; 7 Katherine Granger (England) 57:51.

In the open 5 kilometres, Andy Penn (Nuneaton Harriers) who represented England in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne was 1st in 21.52. Second was 2002 Commonwealth silver medallist Lisa Kehler (Wolverhampton and Bilston) 24.03.


Full results and information about next year’s European Cup of Race Walking can be found at www.walk-leamington2007.org