World Champs Men’s 20K Walk — Martín Splashed Fast

Twice the European champion, Spain’s Álvaro Martín added a Worlds gold to his collection. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

MOVE OVER, Arpad, Elod, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba, Tohotom.

You know, the seven Magyar chieftains — who long years ago helped Buda join Pest in the creation of the Hungarian capital — and are now preserved in the elegant statuary adorning the Heroes’ Plaza, one of Budapest’s most-visited tourist destinations.

Álvaro Martín, Perseus Karlström and Caio Bonfim are the newest visitors to make their mark here along Andrassy Avenue in Budapest’s Zuglo section.

They kicked off the entire 9-day Worlds program with some dramatic Saturday morning racing, 20 single-K circuits of a partially orange-carpeted route taking them past Arpad, Elod, etc. before a sizable crowd of early risers.

The 50 walkers, the officials, media and fans might have enjoyed 2 more hours of shut-eye had they known a thunderstorm was about to delay the start and leave the course a small sea of puddles.

But it all got underway at 10:50 and the excitement began early. Japan’s Koki Ikeda said goodbye to his chasers with a 3:52 opening lap and sped to sizable leads at 5K (18:56) and 10K (38:37). He stayed in front past the 14th loop.

The strategy turned self-destructive, however, as the calmer-headed lead pack surged right on by and left Ikeda to struggle home a distant 15th (1:19.54) with a painful 4:40 final lap.

It was Spain’s Martín — the 29-year-old 2-time Euro champ who placed 7th in Eugene 13 months ago and 4th at the Tokyo Olympics — now in front, as it turned out, for good. Splitting consistent Ks in the 3:54 range, he led at 15 in 58:17 after a 3:43 lap (his fastest) and breezed on home draped in a Spanish flag for the biggest success of his life.

Martín now posts his name alongside such multiple medal-winning Spanish predecessors as José Marín, Jordi Llopart, Valentí Massana, Daniel Plaza, Jesús García, Francisco Fernández and Miguel López. His 1:17:32 clocking — puddles and all — was just 46 seconds off the World Record and 11 ticks off the WC best-ever.

The real drama came in the battle for silver and bronze.

At one point, Brazil’s Bonfim seemed destined for silver. But Sweden’s Karlström would dig down and power into 2nd in the 19th K and cross in 1:17:39.

Gutsily, with two red cards for earlier technique violations. Bonfim regained his form and settled for the bronze in 1:17:47, holding off one more late-charger, Canada’s Evan Dunfee (1:18.03) by just 16 seconds.

As it turned out, the weather delay was a blessing in disguise. Of the original 50, 18 dipped under the 1:20 mark and 9 more under 1:22, as 6 set national records.

Special cheers went to Portugal’s veteran star, João Vieira, at 47 the oldest athlete in the WC, 33rd in 1:23:37.

Nick Christie, the lone American entrant, clocked in at 1:26:21 for 41st.

Needless to say, Martín was overjoyed. “To finish this fast, it is amazing,” he said. “I cannot express all my feelings right now, it feels like a dream. The only thing I want to do now is cry out of happiness.”

Said Karlström, “I was so close — but who knows, next time I will have better luck. Today the race was special and different for me. Budapest is part of history.”

Bonfim’s Brazil has never been known as a racewalk power, So, as he put it, “It is very important to get a medal, it does not matter what color.”

Christie had trained with Karlström, Dunfee and others in St. Moritz. “They put on a master class here,” he said. Christie’s next goal: the Pan-Am Games.


(August 19; 1000m loop)

1. Álvaro Martín (Spa) 1:17:32 PR (WL) (19:26, 19:32 [38:58], 19:19 [58:17], 19:15) (38:58/38:34);

2. Perseus Karlström (Swe) 1:17:39 NR (19:28, 19:30 [38:58], 19:19 [58:17], 19:22) (38:58/38:41);

3. Caio Bonfim (Bra) 1:17:47 NR (19:27, 19:25 [38:52], 19:28 [58:20], 19:27) (38:52/38:55);

4. Evan Dunfee (Can) 1:18:03 NRm(19:30, 19:29 [38:59], 19:27 [58:26], 19:37) (38:59/39:04);

5. Christopher Linke (Ger) 1:18:12 NR (19:28, 19:30 [38:58], 19:35 [58:33], 19:39) (38:58/39:14);

6. Veli-Matti Partanen (Fin) 1:18:22 NR (38:58/39:24);

7. Brian Pintado (Ecu) 1:18:26 PR (38:58/39:28);

8. Declan Tingay (Aus) 1:18:30 PR (38:58/39:32);

9. Samuel Gathimba (Ken) 1:18:34 NR; 10. Gabriel Bordier (Fra) 1:18:59 PR; 11. Francesco Fortunato (Ita) 1:19:01; 12. Yuta Koga (Jpn) 1:19:02; 13. Luís Alberto Amezcua (Spa) 1:19:28 PR; 14. Rhydian Cowley (Aus) 1:19:31; 15. Koki Ikeda (Jpn) 1:19:44; 16. Salih Korkmaz (Tur) 1:19:49; 17. César Rodríguez (Per) 1:19:52 NR; 18. Andrés Olivas (Mex) 1:19:55; 19. David Hurtado (Ecu) 1:20:07; 20. Jordy Jiménez (Ecu) 1:20:08 PR; 21. Eiki Takahashi (Jpn) 1:20:25; 22. Luis Campos (Per) 1:20:56 PR; 23. Máté Helebrandt (Hun) 1:21:16 PR; 24. Toshikazu Yamanishi (Jpn) 1:21:39; 25. Noel Ali Chama (Mex) 1:21:51; 26. Eider Arévalo (Col) 1:21:55; 27. Vikash Singh (Ind) 1:21:58;
28. Serhiy Svitlychnyy (Ukr) 1:22:28; 29. Jun Zhang (Chn) 1:23:13; 30. Andrea Cosi (Ita) 1:23:28; 31. José Alejandro Barrondo (Gua) 1:23:33; 32. José Luis Doctor (Mex) 1:23:35; 33. João Vieira (Por) 1:23:37; 34. Dominik Černý (Svk) 1:23:42 PR; 35. Paramjeet Singh Bisht (Ind) 1:24:02; 36. Max Batista Dos Santos (Bra) 1:24:10 PR; 37. Zhaozhao Wang (Chn) 1:24:23; 38. Aléxandros Papamihaíl (Gre) 1:24:26; 39. Diego García (Spa) 1:25:12; 40. Kyle Swan (Aus) 1:26:02; 41. Nick Christie (US) 1:26:21; 42. José Ortíz (Gua) 1:26:29; 43. Jerry Jokinen (Fin) 1:26:54; 44. Wenchao Niu (Chn) 1:27:26; 45. Juan Manuel Cano (Arg) 1:27:29; 46. César Alberto Herrera (Col) 1:27:47; 47. Akashdeep Singh (Ind) 1:31:12;… dnf—David Kenny (Ire), Massimo Stano (Ita);… dq—Marius Žiūkas (Lit).
(leader splits: Ikeda 19:18, 38:37; Martín 58:17)

(best-ever mark-for-place: 6–20)