02 December 2013
It has been announced that The British Grand Prix of Race Walking will be staged on the new cycle circuit at York Sport Village, University of York on Sunday 8 June 2014.
Designated by the European Athletics Association as a European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting, it will form part of a series of events held across the continent in Switzerland, Slovakia, Portugal, Czech Republic and Lithuania, Russia.
The meeting will be one of the last major warm-up events for the top European race walkers ahead of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August. Previous UK editions of this event have attracted numerous Olympic, world championship and European medallists.
It is hoped that the event, which will feature a men’s and women’s 20km and a junior men’s and women’s 10km event in the international programme, will attract competitors from more than 20 countries from across the world.
Event Director Ian Richards said: “It is great that we can re-establish a European Race Walking Permit Meeting in the UK and build on the legacy of the 2007 European Cup in Leamington Spa and last year’s Olympic events that drew crowds of 50,000 to The Mall. We are also pleased that we can bring this competition to the fantastic new facilities here at York Sport Village.”
Andi Drake, Head Coach at the National Race Walking Centre in Leeds and an England Athletics Endurance Coach Mentor, said: “It is fantastic for the best British walkers to be able to race against top level international competition on home soil.”
Keith Morris, Head of Sport at the University of York, said: “We are delighted that York Sport Village has been chosen to host the British Grand Prix of Race Walking on the cycle circuit. We are very much looking forward to welcoming the athletes and working with the organisers to make this a successful and memorable event.”
Cllr Sonja Crisp, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “This is a very welcome announcement, proving the quality of the University’s council-backed cycle circuit and our local infrastructure to support major sports events. It also builds on our triumph with the Yorkshire Marathon, showing that success breeds success and attracts more events to benefit sports and the local economy.”
Yorkshire and York in particular has a long history of staging race walking events. The world’s first amateur race walking event was staged between Bradford’s George Hotel and the Windmill Hotel, York on Whit Monday (31 May) in 1903 over a distance of 39 miles. This event became the Bradford Whit Monday walk which regularly drew thousands of spectators.
There will be a strong Yorkshire contingent in the race, including Jo Jackson (coach: Andi Drake), the reigning Commonwealth Champion and British Record holder over 20km. Joining her in the women’s race will be Bethan Davies (Drake), who is based at the National Race Walking Centre in Leeds. In only her second year as a race walker, she made her Great Britain debut in the 2013 European Cup Race Walking in Slovakia, as well as setting numerous Welsh records.
The Men’s 20km will feature Leeds-based New Zealander, Quentin Rew, who represented New Zealand in the London Olympic Games over 50km and finished 17th in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow in August. He set a new national record over 20km when he won the German National 20km Championships in April this year.
Leeds Metropolitan University student Tom Bosworth (Drake) has been one of Britain’s top two male walkers for the last four years and represented England in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Also stepping up to 20km in 2014 will be Jamie Higgins (Drake), who finished seventh in this summer’s European Junior Championships in Rieti, Italy over 10,000m, the highest finish by a British athlete in this event since 1987. Ellie Dooley (Drake) is the reigning National Under 20 Champion and represented Great Britain in the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in 2012.