Poděbrady Race Walking
WA Race Walking Tour Gold Meeting

6. 4. 2024

Records fell in Poděbrady, titles again for Hlaváč and Martínková

Kimberly García and Perseus Karlström dominated the golden meeting of the Poděbrady Walking World Circuit in course records. Vít Hlaváč and Eliška Martínková defended their Czech 20 km titles. Ema Klimentová dominated the junior ten, Albert Kukla finished third.

Karlström's fourth triumph, Hlaváč's big personal best

Perseus Karlström of Sweden proved that he is doing well in Poděbrady, he won here for the fourth time, only Matej Tóth won more than once in history. In addition, he became the race record holder, covering the 20 kilometres in 1:18:22, 32 seconds faster than himself in 2021 and Caio Bonfim in 2022. The Brazilian also outdid himself, clocking 1:18:50, good enough for third place behind Canadian Evan Dunfee (1:18:41) in a packed race. Vít Hlaváč gave an excellent performance, setting a great personal best of 1:23:38 and finishing 21st out of a hundred walkers at the start.

Despite the warm weather - the men started at three o'clock - there was no holding back. Perseus Karlstrom was one of those who started a little looser, but after a couple of circuits he was among the best and by the halfway point he was alongside previous leader Christopher Linke (both 39:40). However, the German, another regular participant, did not continue in the race. And the Swede began to pull away from his rivals in the following circuits. At the 15-kilometre mark, Karlström was already 10 seconds ahead, doubling his lead by the finish.

Evan Dunfee had been in contact with the very front virtually from the first lap. He settled into second position midway through the race and held onto it to the finish without any relatively major problems. Caio Bonfim moved up to third at a similar stage of the race to Dunfee and safely guarded that position. Conversely, he tried to attack even better but got no closer than a few seconds. At the finish, the Canadian lost to the Brazilian by 9 secs. Francesco Fortunato did not follow up last year's triumph at the European Championships and finished fifth in 1:20:32, ahead of compatriot Andrea Cosi (1:20:56 personal best). The last to break the 1:20 mark was Frenchman Gabriel Bordier (1:19:56).

Vít Hlaváč passed the lifetime best of 20 in Poděbrady. He started a bit sharper than he had planned, but for a long time he walked steady circuits slightly under 4 minutes. And he was steadily climbing up the rankings: in the first quarter he was in the top ten, in the middle he was peeking into the third ten (29th), but mainly in a promising 41:18. After that, he peeked into the "top 20" for a while, but eventually stayed in 21st place. Above all, he clocked 1:23:38, improving his recent personal best from Dudince by 2 minutes and 12 seconds.

Of course, Hlaváč also won another championship title for Kladno, his fourth in a row on this course and his fourth overall. His colleagues on the podium were also satisfied. Jaromír Morávek (Škoda Plzeň) pushed his season's best to 1:25:47 and won silver. Adam Zajíček (Poruba) took the bronze with a time of 1:26:54. In the interstate race, the Czech athletes were one place away from bronze. It was taken by the Finns. The French won ahead of the Slovaks.

García debuted with a track record

Kimberly García León of Peru won in her debut in Poděbrady in 1:27:08, having decided her triumph over a pair of great rivals in the last quarter of the 20km course. Glenda Morejón from Ecuador also broke the three-year old course record (1:27:42) with 1:27:21 and the previous holder Antonella Palmisano with 1:27:27. The Czech champion was Eliška Martínková with 1:40:25.

In the warm, almost summer weather it started slowly, but from the second kilometer the lead took a little bit and the record-breaking pack (81 women at the start) started to break. Still in the first quarter of the course, the leading group had already been reduced to eight women. The main favourites were not missing, except perhaps Katarzyna Zdzieblo of Poland (outside the top 10). Unfortunately, even Eliška Martínková was not in the next group, as she was in the fourth top ten from the start.

Another reduction in the front came before the tenth kilometre, and by the halfway point, which the front passed in 44:06 minutes, the group was down to six walkers. This situation was short-lived, with Brazil's Viviane Lyra, Ecuador's Magaly Bonilla and then Mexico's Alegna González failing to keep up the pace, eventually finishing fourth, less than a minute behind the winner (1:28:04). Lyra and Bonilla had to settle for fifth and sixth, but both took home personal bests (1:28:25 and 1:28:26).

The trio of the biggest favourites fought for the medal positions from the 12th circuit onwards, and were still together at the 15th km mark. That was the last time, however, as Kimberly García León then committed to accelerate, immediately gaining a few seconds on her rivals. Antonella Palmisano in particular tried to respond, but her rival Glenda Morejón erased her small lead and it was she who had the upper hand at the end. García got her lead down to a quarter of a minute, shrinking a little at the end, but still had a comfortable margin on Morejón. All in all, the trio could only fit in 19 seconds.

Eliška Martínková passed the first half in 47:25, but in the second half she walked the kilometre loops for over five minutes. She dropped from 33rd position to 41st at the finish, the final time was over 1:40. However, the representative of USK Praha won the national title with dominance, despite the personal bests, the Plzeň women Michaela Baklíková (1:52:55) and Nelly Bugárová (1:53:00) remained with a significant gap. Martínková together with Štěpánka Pohlová Kučerová (1:55:26) finished fourth in the international match, with the French women clearly winning ahead of the Hungarians and Spanish.

Triumph of Klimentová and the Czech junior women's team

In the junior women's 10km race, Ema Klimentova was long behind co-favourite Claudia Ventura of Spain. At the eighth kilometer, the home walker took off and immediately built up a 7-second lead. She increased it in the following laps and reached the finish in 47:37. She broke her personal best by 38 seconds. She would need to knock off a similar distance to qualify for the World U20 Championships in Lima in August. Ventura won the silver a quarter of a minute later (47:52), while Germany's Tabea Kiefer took the bronze with a personal best of 47:59.

The other Czech representative Alžběta Franklová held on to the third place in the group for half of the course, but at the end she was not able to keep up with her rivals and finished seventh. Her time of 49:20 was just behind her personal best. The Czech juniors celebrated their success in the match, where they won against the French and Spanish women.

Bronze Kukla and silver juniors

Albert Kukla performed courageously in the junior 10 km. In the middle of the race, he was even at the head of the leading trio for a while. Then, although he couldn't hold off his rivals in the second half, he built up a sufficient lead over the others. And because he maintained a solid pace throughout, he will take away from Poděbrady not only the bronze but also a personal best improved by one and a quarter minutes to 42:44. The winning Frenchman Quentin Chenuet in 42:15 and the silver medalist Nick Joel Richardt in 42:21 also improved their bests.

Vojtech Novák, the second Czech junior finisher, was also happy with his personal best, finishing 11th in 46:26. His result, together with Kukla in the match, was enough for second place. Clearly the best were the French, the Czechs were in total one position ahead of the Spaniards.

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