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Dominic King
Dominic King: will compete in 50km race

17 May 2013

A six-strong GB & NI team will head to the Slovakian town of Dudince for the 10th European Cup Race Walking on Sunday.

Olympian Dominic King (coach: George Nibre) will compete over 50km as he returns to the venue where he set his personal best of 4.06.34 in March last year. King clocked his fastest 20km performance for four years with a time of 89.21 in Lugano in March and was runner up to Tom Bosworth (Andi Drake) in the national 20km Championships last month.

The battle for the title will be an intriguing one. Yohann Diniz of France, reigning European 50km Champion and the European Cup Champion over 20km in 2007, has struggled in major championships since his gold medal in Barcelona, although his personal best of 3:38:45 was set in Dudince in 2009 and he clocked 3:49:52 in the annual 50km in Dudince in March.

Reigning World Champion Sergey Bakulin will lead the Russian challenge along with teammate Alexey Bartsaykin. Also likely to challenge for the podium is the 43 year old Jesus Angel Garcia of Spain won the European Cup in Dudince back in 2001 and was World champion twenty years ago in Stuttgart.

The British challenge in the men’s 20km race is led by Alex Wright (Raphael Rinaldi) and national champion Tom Bosworth, who have both clocked personal bests this season. Wright recorded an IAAF World Championships ‘A’ qualifying standard of 83.05 in Lugano in March to move to fourth on the UK all-time list.

Bosworth clocked a personal best of 84.44 in Podebrady last month and with three IAAF World Championship B standards already to his name will look to attack the A qualifying standard.

Home fans will be hoping that 2010 IAAF World Cup Champion Matej Toth will be able to put the host country on the podium. He clocked a personal best of 1:20:14 in Poderbrady last month and his 50km personal best was set in Dudince in 2011.

Andrey Ruzavin who walked 1:19:06 in Sochi in February leads the inevitable Russian challenge. Others fighting for a place on the podium include Ireland’s Robert Heffernan who was fourth in the 50km in London and has been agonisingly close to the podium at the European Cup over 20km in both 2007 and 2009.

In the absence of Commonwealth Champion Jo Jackson, Bethan Davies (Andi Drake) will lead the British challenge in the women’s 20km. Davies has made a remarkable transition from cross country runner to international race walker, lining up for GB & NI just 18 months after volunteering to compete in the Varsity Mile.

Following an injury in a car accident, rapid progress saw Davies take the National Under 23 title over 10km and bronze over 5,000m in the 2012 Olympic Trials. Her debut over 20km was just 3 weeks ago when she took the National title at Coventry in when a Welsh Record of 1.44.15 to secure selection for Dudince.

The overwhelming favourite for the title will be Russia’s Olympic champion and world record holder Yelena Lashmanova, who set a stunning world record on The Mall in London. Her closest challenge is likely to come from her teammates, double European Cup silver medallist Anisia Kirdiapkina and former world record holder Vera Sokolova while the rest of Europe will be led by 2008 Olympic Bronze Medallist Elisa Rigaudo of Italy, Portuguese duo Ines Henriques and Ana Cabecinha and Spain’s Julia Takács, who set a personal best of 1:28:44 in March.

Jamie Higgins (Andi Drake) has realistic hopes of a top 10 place in the junior men’s 10km in his sights. His 42.42 personal best in Coventry in March moved him to seventh on the UK all-time list and is well inside the qualifying standard for the European Junior Championships, ranking him seventh in Europe. He also took the title in the IAAF Challenge race in Lugano in March and took the National title in Coventry with a time of 43.36 last month.

Higgins will be up against Russian trio Nikolay Markov, Damir Baybikov and Pavel Parshin, Italians Vito Minei and Francesco Fortunato, and Spain's Alvaro Martin, Diego Garcia and Marc Tur. Also in the GB & NI team will be 16 year old Cameron Corbishley (Douglas Hopkins), who has made big progress over 10km this season clocking a personal best of 47.02 in Poderbrady.

Live streaming of the event will be available from 06.30 on Sunday morning at http://tveso.sk/european-cup-race-walking/