27 May 2009
The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team had to endure extreme conditions in the European Cup Race Walking in Metz, as the temperature reached 35C on a course with no shade.
In a day when the weather contributed to some major shocks amongst the European elite, the best performances came from debutant Mark O’Kane (Coventry Godiva Harriers) 24th in the junior men’s 10k and Luke Finch (Colchester Harriers) 25th in the senior men’s 20k.
First up for GB & NI were the King twins Daniel and Dominic. Even at the 8am start the temperatures were well into the 20s, but the cloud cover produced humid conditions. Both made steady starts, with Daniel through 10k in 48:38 and Dominic in 48:55.
However Daniel already had 2 DQ cards on the board and was only to last another lap before the judges removed him. Dominic continued to carve out a steady pace passing 20k in 1:37:28 in 30th place. He passed the 30k mark in 2:27:37 put was disqualified after picking up his final red card at the 32k point.
At the front, world record holder Dennis Nizhegorodov (Russia) took charge of the race just after 30km and pulled away from the field to record 3:42:47.
JUNIOR MEN’S 10k
Ben Wears (Redcar RWC) went into the race with high hopes of a top ten finish. Ben started positively and passed the 2k point in 8:29 on the back of the leading pack. Mark O’Kane (Coventry Godiva) and Tom Bosworth (Tonbridge AC) making their international debuts passed the same point in 9.03. As expected the Russian trio put the hammer down in the 2nd lap and had drawn clear of the rest of the field by the 4k point. Meanwhile Wears was closely involved in the action behind and was holding 8th place (25.48) at 6k.
The drama for Wears was yet to come. As Wears entered the last lap he was holding 10th place and looked set to catch athletes that were slowing in front of him. However with 800 metres left he received the dreaded third red card in five minutes to eliminate him from the race. Stanislav Yemelyanov (Russia) took the title in 41:22.
O’Kane stuck to his task well and picked up a number of places in the last lap to record his second fastest ever time of 46:04 for 24th place. Bosworth despite really suffering with stomach cramps came home in 52:01 for 39th. Wears disqualification had a major impact on the team position, as GB & NI closed in 13th position.
During the lunch break the overcast clouds of the morning had given way to clear blue sky, but by the time the women towed the line at 1.30pm the temperature was a scorching 33c. With no shade on the city centre circuit there were soon many casualties. UK record holder Jo Jackson (Redcar RWC) went with the large lead pack of over 20 athletes during the first lap. However, even by 4k it was clear Jo was suffering. Despite moving backwards through the field, she showed tremendous spirit to tough it out. She passed 10k in 50.29 and was able to rally in the last few laps to come home in 27th in a very disappointing 1.45.05.
Afterwards Jo said: “I had nothing in my legs at 4k, it’s a long way when you are feeling this bad so early! I have had a bit of a bug all week and I think this took the edge of my performance”. Maria Vasco (Spain), often the bridesmaid in major championships, took her first major title in 1:32:53 at the age of 33.
SENIOR MEN’S 20k
As the men towed the line the temperature had risen to 35 degrees and the newly laid tarmac on the course was beginning to melt. Meanwhile Luke Finch (Colchester Harriers) making his senior debut after returning to the event only last summer, took a steady start passing halfway in 46.07 in 31st place. Despite having a very tough patch between 12k and 16k, Finch was able to pick off athletes that were really suffering and came home in 25th place in 1.36.31.
Giorgio Rubino (Italy) pulled well clear of the pursuers to come home in 1:24:06. The harshness of the conditions were shown by the fact that this would have placed only 24th at the previous edition in Leamington in 2007.
Full Results available from http://www.metz2009.fr/2nd_language/index.html