Olympic Games - OG 2016 Maschile

Rio de Janeiro

IAAF preview (by Phil Minshull and Jon Mulkeen)


Miguel Angel Lopez produced one of the shocks of the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 when the Spaniard came through strongly over the last two kilometres to leave the highly-rated Chinese race walkers floundering in his wake on their home soil.


In Rio, Lopez will face the same trio of Chinese representatives that he defeated in Beijing: silver medallist Wang Zhen, fifth-placed Cai Zelin and Olympic champion Chen Ding, who was ninth in Beijing.


The question is, can lightning strike twice? Lopez certainly thinks so.


“I’m going to Rio to fight for the gold medal,” said Lopez, as he departed for Brazil on Friday. "I’m not going to settle for a silver or bronze. OK, if I’ve given everything and get the silver then I can be happy but logically, at this stage, it’s only gold I’m interested in.


“The Chinese walkers still have to be the favourites,” he added, perhaps trying to take a bit of the pressure off being the focus of attention as Spain seeks its first athletics gold medal at the Olympics since it staged the Games in 1992. “However, I’ve prepared well and happy with the work that I’ve done.”


Although minor injuries earlier in the season restricted him to a modest 33rd place at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome in early May, he improved to third at the prestigious IAAF World Race Walking Challenge meeting in La Coruna three weeks later.


More significantly, though, he recently clocked 38:06.28 – the fourth-fastest time in history – in the 10,000m race walk to win the Spanish title in Gijon.


Aside from Lopez, the man showing the best current form in this event appears to be Olympic bronze medallist Wang, who has won five of his past six outings over this distance – and he is unbeaten over any distance in 2016 – since he won the Asian Games title in September 2014, the only blip being his second place in Beijing.


This year, Wang has trotted out wins in his own Olympic trials, Rome and La Coruna.


Chen finished second in the Olympic trials but then failed to finish in Rome. Over the past few years injuries have meant he has struggled to maintain any sort of consistency, but no man has ever successfully defended his Olympic title at this event and this surely is a huge motivation for the man who turned 24 on Friday.


Cai is the rather unheralded member of the trio, at least internationally, but also showed he was in good form in May with his second-place finish in Rome. After just missing out on the podium in London, finishing fourth, he has plenty of motivation of his own.


Japan has sent three good race walkers to Rio, even if world record-holder Yusuke Suzuki is missing.


World leader Eiki Takahashi clocked 1:18:26 when winning the Japanese title in February but then finished back in 12th place in Rome and admittedly has few international credentials, finishing 47th in Beijing last summer.


Takahashi will be accompanied by Isamu Fujisawa and Daisuke Matsunaga, who have both gone under 1:19:00 this year, the latter winning the Asian 20km title in March.


Getting the biggest cheer though, around the 2km loop by the coast at Pontal, will be local hope Caio Bonfim, who is a consistent race walker at the big championships, finishing sixth in Beijing last year and eighth in Rome three months ago.


Also worthy of medal consideration are Canada's world bronze medallist Ben Thorne, his compatriot and national record-holder Inaki Gomez, Sweden’s rapidly improving Perseus Karlstrom, Germany’s Christpher Linke, Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith and Mexico’s Ever Palma, all of whom have gone under 1:20:00 this year.


This event will also count towards the IAAF World Race Walking Challenge and is the last competition on the 2016 calendar.



Phil Minshull for the IAAF



20 km men






La videoclip della 20km 





50 km men



A tibia injury at the start of the year threatened to derail Matej Toth’s 2016 campaign, but after a good block of training in Italy, the world champion is said to be back to full fitness.


The Slovak race walker has said that he is in similar form to last year, when he produced the third-fastest time in history to win on home soil at the IAAF World Race Walking Challenge meeting in Dudince before taking the world title in Beijing.


He also has a great chance of winning Slovakia’s first Olympic medal in athletics since the nation became independent in 1993.


But Toth is just one third of what looks set to be an intriguing three-way battle.


World record-holder Yohann Diniz is back in shape, having missed most of 2015 with an injury. The French race walker leads this year’s world list with 3:37:48 and will be hoping to finally earn his first Olympic medal; he failed to finish in 2008 and was disqualified in 2012.


Diniz and Toth last met at the 2014 European Championships where Diniz broke the world record with 3:32:33 and Toth crossed the line four minutes later to take silver. But Toth performed better than Diniz at the 2009 and 2013 World Championships and at the 2012 Olympics.


Defending champion Jared Tallent was denied his moment of glory at the time of the London 2012 Olympic Games and only received his gold medal after Sergey Kirdyapkin was banned for a doping offence. Having been denied several medals for similar reasons in the past, the Australian won’t want to let anyone get in the way of his title defence.


Tallent had been set to contest the 20km at the start of the athletics programme in Rio, but after recently aggravating an old hamstring injury in training, he has decided to skip the shorter event as a precautionary measure.


China will be represented by Wang Zhendong, winner of their Olympic Trials race with a PB of 3:41:02, 2004 Olympian Han Yucheng, and Yu Wei, who finished seventh at last year’s World Championships.


Wang will be making his global championships debut, while Han has a history of failing to finish major races. Yu could therefore be China’s best bet of a medal in the 50km.


Japanese duo Takayuki Tanii and Hirooki Arai finished third and fourth respectively in Beijing last August. After being disqualified in the 50km in 2004 and in the 20km in 2008, and failing to finish the 50km in 2012, Tanii will be hoping for a more prosperous Olympic experience at what will be his fourth Games.


Ecuador’s Andres Chocho and Canada’s Evan Dunfee will both be doubling up in Rio, and their best chances of a medal are in the longer event.


Chocho set a 50km area record of 3:42:57 at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge meeting in Juarez, Mexico, and followed it with a 20km PB of 1:20:07 when finishing sixth at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome three months ago.


Dunfee, meanwhile, set a Canadian record of 3:43:45 last December in what was just his fifth race at the distance.


Spain’s world 20km race walk champion Miguel Angel Lopez will also be doubling up, but his primary focus will be on the shorter event, which comes first in the Olympic programme.


When 46-year-old compatriot Jesus Angel Garcia takes to the startline in Rio, he will be making his seventh Olympic appearance, a record number for a man and tying the outright record set by sprinter Merlene Ottey.


Ireland’s 2013 world champion Robert Heffernan, Ukraine’s Igor Glavan and Poland’s Rafal Augustyn can also be expected to challenge for a podium finish.


This event is also the final race in the 2016 IAAF Race Walking Challenge.



Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF







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