A look ahead to the event in Podebrady, Czech Republic

Great Britain has never won a medal at the European Race Walking Cup, but British record-holder and Olympic sixth-placer Tom Bosworth will be looking to change that on Sunday in Podebrady, writes Ian Richards.

Bosworth will lead the strongest British team ever in pursuit of an individual medal and a high team placing in the men’s 20km race walk. Building on his huge breakthrough performance in Rio, Bosworth has made a strong start to 2017 by finishing second in the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Rio Maior in 80:58.

On the fast circuit around the Czech spa town that stages an annual international race walking competition, Bosworth will be targeting his British record of 80:13 set in the Olympics. Bosworth’s main competition will come from reigning European Cup and world champion Miguel Ángel López of Spain, although Bosworth finished ahead of him in the Lugano 20km in March.

German Christopher Linke clocked a very fast 78:59 when winning in Podebrady last month, while Olympic and world 50km champion Matej Toth will be looking to reach the top of the podium after finishing second in the 20km in 2015 and third in 2013.

Russian Sergey Shirobokov, who has been cleared by the IAAF to compete as a neutral athlete, set a PB of 78:26 earlier this year. Other contenders will be Martin Alvaro of Spain (PB 79:36), Hagen Pohle of Germany (PB 79:58), 2009 European Cup champion Giorgio Rubino of Italy (PB 79:37), Swede Perseus Karlström (PB 79:11) and Ireland’s Alex Wright, who finished ahead of Bosworth in Lugano and was fifth in Rio Maior.

Joining Bosworth on the GB team will be world junior champion Callum Wilkinson, who has made a brilliant transition from the 10km junior event to the senior distance. Wilkinson clocked a magnificent 83:47 on his 20km debut in Lugano in March which was inside the IAAF World Championships qualifying time. He warmed up for Podebrady by winning the British 10km title in Coventry at the end of April.

Two-time 50km Olympian Dominic King steps down to 20km as he looks for a good performance over the shorter distance as part of his preparations to represent Great Britain over 50km in London in August. The final member of the British quartet is Cameron Corbishley who, like training partner Wilkinson, has made the step up from the junior ranks. He clocked 86:00 in the EAA Permit Meeting on the same Podebrady course in April, which was inside the British Athletics qualifying time for the European Under-23 Championships.

The current depth of British race walking is illustrated that for the first time ever there is a team of three entered in the senior women’s 20km. Bethan Davies set a personal best of 93:48 when narrowly missing out on Olympic selection in Leeds last year and clocked 95:47 in Adelaide in Australia in March.

She is joined by Gemma Bridge who has recently made the full time conversion from distance runner to race walker. Having recently moved to Leeds to study for a PhD and base herself at the National Race Walking Centre she has made a sensational start to her 20km career, culminating in a 95:01 clocking at Poderbardy in April, which was inside the British Athletics standard for London. Joining them will be Heather Lewis who will be making her senior debut in the British team. She clocked a big personal best in Lugano in March of 97:39.

Among the favourites in the race will be Antonella Palmisano of Italy who was fourth in the Olympic Games and has a personal best of 87:51, Spain’s Julia Takács who has a personal best of 88:44 and Ana Cabecinha of Portugal who was sixth in Rio and fourth in the 2015 World Championships. Home favourite and former world junior champion and 2014 European bronze medallist Anezka Drahotova will be roared on by a partisan home crowd. Lithuania will also feature in the race for team honours.

Chris Snook will make his Great Britain debut in the junior men’s 10km having set a personal best on the European Cup course last month of 44:45. The race for the title will be contested by France’s David Kuster who set a PB this year of 41:31, Germany’s Leo Köpp, Italian Giacomo Brandi and Poland’s Lukasz Niedzialek.

Molly Davey, who is based in Italy, will also make her Great Britain debut in the junior women’s 10km having also set a PB in the Czech spa town last month of 51:46. European under-18 champion over 5000m last summer, Turkey’s Meryem Bekmez, has the fastest personal and season’s best of 44:58. German Teresa Zurek has clocked 45:09 this year, while neutral athlete Yana Smerdova has clocked 45:48.

There is a relatively small field in the men’s 50km and the title is wide open. The quickest in the field is Ukranian Ihor Hlavan (PB 3:40:39) and teammate Ivan Banzeruk (3:44:49). Competition for the title will come from German Carl Dohmann, Finn Aleksi Ojala, Swede Ato Ibáñez and Irish walker Brendan Boyce.

Timetable in local time (BST in brackets)

08:00 (07:00) 50km men
10:00 (09:00) 10km U20 men
13:00 (12:00) 20km women
16:00 (15:00) 20km men
18:00 (17:00) 10km U20 women

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