María Peréz became the world record 35-kilometre holder at the European Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Poděbrady with a time of 2:37:15. The 27-year old Spaniard surpassed the performance of the Peruvian Kimberly García León from the Dudince meeting two months ago by 29 seconds. After a silver medal at ERWTCH two years ago in Poděbrady and fourth place at the Olympics, Pérez added her greatest accolade.
"To finish the best I could"
“It is a nice feeling to finish the race and the time is a big reward for this,” said Pérez a few moments after crossing the line. “I did not think of any time or any special target before the start, I just wanted to finish the best I could. So, the record time was definitely not my goal today. I am happy to do my best and I am glad to see the race walk can be attractive and can attract such great crowds like in Poděbrady.”
As Pérez said, she came to Poděbrady with the idea of finishing, so she started slowly. Yet time was soon her main rival. Opponents were losing quickly, after five kilometres it was 36 seconds, after ten kilometres it was already more than a minute and a half, and in the middle of the race her lead was close to four minutes.
World record hunt in second half
However, Pérez was already “in another race”. The world record was set by the Peruvian woman at a pace of 4:30 per kilometre, and the Spanish woman managed the 12th kilometre faster for the first time. From that moment on, she was only a single lap slower, but in the second half her chase had already begun. María was cutting seconds at a time. After 20 kilometres, her deficit to the world record was 51 seconds, after 25 km it was half that, 26 seconds.
Pérez had the last 10 seconds left in the final five kilometres. She managed to clean them up during the next three laps, and the last one turned into an exhibition when she walked them in 4:20 and 4:15 mins. The final kilometre was thus the fastest of the entire race, even though the champion celebrated with the Spanish flag. She crossed the finish line in euphoria in 2:37:15, beating her previous personal best set in Lepe, Spain in January 2022 by 2 minutes and 1 second.
Thank to Poděbrady
“In the last lap, it was going well. We had a great support on the course – I liked it very much. Of course, I am feeling tired now but I will take a little rest and will cheer for the Spanish team. We are doing very well and I am glad I can be a part of it. Thanks to Poděbrady for having such a race walking event,” she thanks.
“I had difficult seasons behind me and I focused on this competition very seriously. We worked on the technique and I wanted to show that I am really well prepared. The technique was still not the best but I am working on it. It will be even better,” she closes.