Álvaro Martín and María Pérez win European 20km race walk titles
Spanish athletes secured success on the streets of Berlin on Saturday morning as Álvaro Martín and María Pérez claimed a 20km race walk double for the nation, while Tom Bosworth was the top Briton in seventh.
Pérez impressed in the women’s event as she broke the 16-year-old championship record by six seconds to claim victory ahead of 2014 European bronze medallist Anezka Drahotová.
Because of a gas leak scare, the women’s event was rescheduled to start with the men’s and the women made the most of the unisex conditions with some fast times on the tight city centre course.
Pérez, who was 10th at the 2017 World Championships, proved the strongest over the closing stages and clocked her record-breaking 86:36 to win by 27 seconds from Czech walker Drahotová.
Pérez was always near the front but at half way, which she passed in 44:07, she was eight seconds back on the lead in second. She virtually regained contact at 12km but was still four seconds back at 15km (65:37) on Drahotová.
However, Pérez hit the front at 16km and accelerating the 22 year-old pulled away and took over two minutes off her previous best.
Drahotová, who lost around 10 seconds per kilometre in the last 3km, was also 27 seconds ahead of the next walker, Antonella Palmisano, who matched her third in the London World Championships.
Brigita Virbalyte-Dimsiene set a Lithuanian record in fourth of 87:59 just ahead of her compatriot Zivile Vaiciukeviciute, who had been a clear leader at half way in 43:59.
Britain’s Bethan Davies, who claimed bronze for Wales at the Commonwealth Games in April, was 21st at half way in 46:25 and found the second half harder but ended up 22nd in 96:50.
Heather Lewis was disqualified during the seventh kilometre having been in 20th position at the time.
In the men’s race, Martín led a Spanish one-two as he clocked 80:42 ahead of Diego García Carrera’s 80:48.
Moving ahead with 2km remaining, Martín pushed on further away from his rivals, which also included Russia’s Vasiliy Mizinov, competing as an authorised neutral athlete, to eventually claim victory.
Mizinov took bronze in 80:50, one second ahead of Italy’s Massimo Stano who clocked a personal best.
Britain’s Bosworth was unable to add another medal to the Commonwealth silver he won on the Gold Coast earlier in the year after finding the race tough going.
Placed eighth in the lead group at half way with 41:09 on the clock, the 28-year-old moved into the lead through 15km in 61:15 but then slipped behind the leading pack with 4km to go.
He crossed the finish line in seventh, clocking 81:31, one place and four seconds behind Spain’s 2014 champion and 2015 world gold medallist Miguel Ángel López.
After leading in the early stages, Bosworth’s team-mate Callum Wilkinson was disqualified after 6km.
“It was extremely hard work,” said Bosworth, who has a British record PB of 79:38. “With the conditions at the start of the week, I expected a slow race. But the pace just killed people off.
“It’s annoying because the preparation has gone almost perfectly. Something just didn’t feel right – whether we missed my peak by literally a day or something, I don’t know. Something just felt off so I couldn’t live with the pace at the end.
“I’m frustrated by that. But I didn’t get any cards, I controlled my own race and I was ready to dictate it at the end so there’s loads of positives. It’s just a bit annoying that the legs went in the last kilometre.”