Reigning Olympic 50km race walk champion Matej Toth from Slovakia kept his hopes of defending his title alive by qualifying for Tokyo next year with his fourth victory in the Dudinska 50K, a European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting, on Saturday (24).
Toth sped to victory on home soil in a world-leading time of 3:41:15, comfortably under the Olympic 50km race walk qualifying standard of 3:50:00 which was the Slovakian’s principal aim when he took to the start-line alongside his 10 fellow competitors.
In total four athletes secured the Olympic qualifying time with Poland’s former three-time winner Rafal Augustyn (3:47:42), Ecuador’s Andres Chocho (3:48:57) and Germany’s Karl Junghannss (3:49:45) all finishing inside the 3:50-barrier.
Toth became the first ever four-time winner in Dudince and he seemed to get stronger as the race progressed. The 37-year-old was comfortably inside the Olympic qualifying pace through the 25km mark in 1:51:33 but he covered the second half almost two minutes faster with 1:49:42 to yield a winning time of 3:41:15.
Toth eclipsed the previous world lead of 3:43:29 held by Russia’s Denis Cheparev and his winning time was also his fastest since he won the Olympic title in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“We planned for this pace. I felt great, everything worked well,” said Toth. “I wanted to start conservatively and increase the pace and it was like that. I’m very satisfied not only with the fact I fulfilled the Olympic standard but also with the quality of my winning time. That gives me confidence I can compete with the best next year at the Olympic Games.”
Toth isn’t planning to contest another 50km race walk until the Olympic Games next summer. Instead he plans to focus on racing at shorter distances to sharpen him up for his title defence.
Due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, Toth prepared for the Dudinska 50K in Slovakia rather than in a warmer climate abroad. His coach Matej Spisiak said: 'He proved that even at an older age and only from training at home, he can prepare for an excellent level. Matej showed a great performance and I dare say that he still has something left in reserve.”
With the Polish Championships held in conjunction with the Dudinska 50K, Augustyn was a distant second in 3:47:42 while Chocho overhauled a tiring Junghannss in the latter stages to take the third spot on the podium.
Full results here.