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 (http://www.susanafeitor.org/), 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, http://www.kjerstiplatzer.com/) 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 www.iaaf.org 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