Thursday, September 25, 2008

No IAAF Challenge Final for me.

The IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final was held on Sunday in Murcia, Spain and I was just one of the thousands of spectators. After my last cortisone injection a couple of weeks ago in Australia I have kept cross training on the bike and swimming but haven’t been able to walk more than 5km without my foot becoming inflamed again. So I decided last week that racing in Murcia certainly wasn’t going to help it only rest will do that. I’m still keeping a general fitness and hope to start race walking in mid October when I return to Australia after I get some more medical advice. It was disappointing to not participate but I have had this problem for over two months and I need to let it heal.

The Challenge Final was held in the main street, Gran Via, of Murcia in South Eastern Spain. There were some short children’s and youth races before the main events; women’s 20km then the mens 20km. There was already a large crowd along the course for the start of the women’s race at 10.45am. My good friend and competitor since we were juniors, Susana Feitor (, won convincingly. She was strong and determined from the start to make up for her disappointing DNF in Beijing; and she showed she has great form in the second half of the year. Athanasia Tsoumeleka (Greece; Athens Olympic Champ) was 2nd and Olympic Silver Medallist from Sydney and Beijing Kjersti Platzer (Norway, came in 3rd and therefore won the Challenge on points overall. Even though I didn’t race in Murcia I ended up in 8th place overall in the Challenge and picked up a handy $5,000.

Women's Race IAAF Challenge Final

The men's race was incredible, partly due to the thousands of Ecuadorian fans that had lined the course to cheer their hero Jefferson Perez in his last race. There apparently 30,000 people in Murcia of Ecuadorian descent and I think most of them were on the 1km course in Murcia on Sunday. There was a large pack early on but as it became warmer the numbers dropped until it was just Jefferson and Paquillo Fernandez (Spain) with Jared Tallent close. Paquillo was too strong and Jared overtook Jefferson in the last 2km to place second. Jared had the added bonus of winning the Challenge overall and picked up $30,000! See for full report.

It was an emotional time for Jefferson that wasn’t made any easier when the thousands of Ecuadorian stormed the course; almost causing a riot! It was an incredible scene that I have never witnessed at a race walking event. Some of them were chanting “Jefferson for President.” When I asked Jefferson later about post race “crowd crush” he said that it wasn’t too bad; “in Ecuador the are usually 100,000 pushing people like that!”

Mens 20km IAAF Challenge Final

For me the Challenge Final in Murcia was the best race walking competition that I have witnessed outside the major championship events. It had a great atmosphere, the athletes thought it was well organised and lots of fun. Hopefully there will be more Challenge events like this in the future.

As for me I’m having a holiday in Turkey with Matt before returning to Australia in early October and hopefully I can start race walking again without any more problems.

Crowd waiting for the presentation at the Challenge Final

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beijing in writing

Well it's been nearly three weeks since my race in Beijing and it's definitely time I wrote something. Sorry for the lateness but I couldn't get my head around writing about it. To say I was disappointed is an understatement, I certainly planned to compete much better. Unfortunately my body couldn't cope and the cross training (swimming and riding) every second day wasn't enough. The race was very fast and I was really counting on hot day and slow race. Who would have bet: torrential rain and 19 degrees for the start! But it was the same conditions for all the women. I gave it my best shot and went out with the lead pack and tried to hold on for as long as possible. The second half certainly felt a lot longer! My shin/foot didn'y hurt too much during the race (thanks to a local injection). The results and times of the race were incredibly fast for the winners especially with the poor weather. I was joking afterwards that had the puddles been a little deeper I could have swam; I certainly would have it over them if that was the case! It was good to have Matt, Mum, Dad and my friends Sandra and Justin there to cheer me in the race and for company afterwards.

After my race in Beijing I supported as many other Aussie athletes; I cheered the Aussie men loudly in the the semi final the hockey against Spain (unfortunately we lost) and of course watched the athletics at the Birds Nest. The Australian Athletics Team was a fantastic group and their achievements in Beijing were great, especially the medallists Steve Hooker (Gold, Pole Vault), Jared Tallent (SIlver, 50km Walk and Bronze 20km Walk), Sally McLellan (Silver 100m Hurldes). It was an honour to captain the team.

I travelled back to Australia on the QANTAS Charter which was a lot of fun. I spent a couple of weeks in Sydney and attended two functions for my partners MBF and SALMAT. I enjoyed sharing my Beijing experience with them and catching up with theire staff.

I'm now back in Spain preparing for the IAAF Challenge Final in Murcia on 21st September. I'm currently in 8th position overall on the Challenge and I'm hoping I can move up with a decent performance in Murcia. Although my foot/shin hasn't improved a lot since Beijing. I have been training since the Games but have had to maintain cross training as part of my programme with race walking sessions. I did walk some sessions and then after consultation with the Dr I decided to have another cortisone injection. This time it was in my foot and guided by ultrasound. Fingers crossed that it won't become inflammed again and I can get some good sessions in the next 12 days here before the Final!

Thanks to everyone who supported me in the lead up to Beijing; your messages of support were a great help.