Greek and Spaniard become inaugural European 35km champions
The morning of Day three (August 16) in Munich brought with it two race walking firsts. With the 50km being replaced on the schedule, never before had there been 35km events staged at the European Championships and Greek Antigoni Ntrismpioti, as well as Spaniard Miguel Angel Lopez, seized their chances to make history by winning the women’s and men’s contests respectively in dominant style.
As with the marathons, the downtown course showed off the city centre in fine style, with crowds turning out in force again to watch the athletes tackle the 17-and-a-half lap challenge.
The 38-year-old Ntrismpioti, relishing the warm and sunny conditions, made her decisive break with around 10km to go, having worked alongside Spain’s Raquel Gonzalez to reel in leader Viktoria Madarasz of Hungary.
The Eugene fourth-placer, who had reached 20km alongside Gonzalez in 1:36:48, went eight seconds clear at 25km and ultimately won by almost two minutes, clocking 2:47:00 to her rival’s 2:49:10. Madarasz hung on to take bronze in 2:49:58 while Britain’s Bethan Davies finished 11th with 2:59:38.
“Around halfway, I felt that I had it,” said Ntrismpioti, who works as a waitress at her family’s restaurant, after clinching the first major medal of her career. “I know I am always strong in the last kilometres. Overall, I felt fine in these weather conditions. It was like back home in Greece.”
Former World and European 20km champion Lopez’s men’s victory was a constructed in a very different fashion as he won by over three minutes after breaking clear around the 5km mark. At 20km (1:24:30), the Eugene 10th placer had a 90-second lead over double World Championships medallist Perseus Karlstrom, but the Norwegian was forced to drop out.
The Spaniard reached the Odeonsplatz finish in a time of 2:26:49 as German Christopher Linke (2:29:30), who had been hit by Covid in Eugene, came through for second and Italian Matteo Giupponi won bronze with 2:30:34.
“Leading from the front, mostly on my own, makes it hard,” said Lopez. “We started off with a very slow pace which I wasn’t really keen on, so I increased it. It was a bit of risk but it paid off in the end because I felt strong and managed to maintain the pace throughout. The transition to this distance was pretty easy because I come from the 20km – I was still doing the 20km last year – so it was not that hard for me to change. This new distance clearly suits my ability, and we managed to achieve great results this season.”
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