Can Karlstrom win his first major race walking gold medal in Munich?

Perseus Karlstrom has a bounty of bronze medals from major championships, but the popular Swedish race walker has yet to win gold in a major championship.

But maybe this will change at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships? Karlstrom has entered both the 20km and 35km race walk which will take place in the heart of the Bavarian capital which stages the wider multi-sport European Championships from 11-21 August.

And if he does prevail, don’t be surprised to see Karlstrom donning a mock Viking hat which is fast becoming his trademark celebration on the Odeonplatz.

Karlstrom won bronze medals in both events at the World Athletics Championships and he leads the European lists in both events with 1:19:18 and 2:23:44 respectively. And his gold medal prospects in the 35km race walk have been heightened by the fact that recently crowned world champion Massimo Stano from Italy will only be contesting the 20km race walk in Munich.

For Stano, Munich offers the opportunity of completing the Grand Slam of major race walk titles in just over a twelve month window as he defied the heat and humidity to win 20km race walk gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – one of five gold medals for Italy at those dream Olympics.

The Spaniards will pose the biggest threats in both events. The gold and silver medalists from four years ago Alvaro Martin and Diego Garcia are among four Spaniards entered for the 20km race walk while former world and European champion Miguel Angel Lopez steps up to the 35km race walk.

Stano completed one-half of an Italian double in the 20km race walk in Sapporo with Antonella Palmisano coolly winning the women’s title. Unfortunately, Palmisano is a notable absentee due to injury along with her teammate Eleonora Giorgi albeit for the happier reason that she is expecting her first child.

The two main contenders for the women’s 20km race walk title are Spain’s reigning champion Maria Perez and Poland’s Katarzyna Zdzieblo who had significantly contrasting performances at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.

While Perez was disqualified in the relatively early stages of the 20km race walk, Zdzieblo was one of the breakout performers of the championships where the qualified doctor came away with silver medals in both the 20km and 35km race walk events.

World Athletics Championships Oregon22 - Day One

Zdzieblo will be focusing solely on the shorter distance and an exciting head-to-head with Perez beckons in Munich. They are ranked first and second based on season’s bests with 1:27:31 and 1:27:40 respectively although Zdzieblo’s performance in Oregon demonstrates we cannot discount a less established performer emerging from the pack.

In the 35km race walk, Greece’s Antigoni Ntrismpioti looks poised to win her first medal in a major championships at the age of 38.

Ntrismpioti, who works full-time as a waitress in her family restaurant, has taken seamlessly to the newest event on the major championships schedule. She finished fourth at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon and also won gold in the first staging of the event at the European Race Walking Team Championships last May.

Other notable entrants for the 35km race walk include Portugal’s 2018 European 50km race walk champion Ines Henriques – one of four athletes who also competed when Munich staged the 2002 European Athletics Championships – and Spain’s Raquel Gonzalez who finished one place behind Ntrismpioti in Oregon.

Veterans Lamdassem and McCormack among the favorites in high quality marathons

And there could be even more Spanish success on the roads, especially in the men’s marathon.

One of the standout entrants in a wide open but high quality men’s race is Ayad Lamdassem who just missed out on the medals at the Tokyo Olympics where he finished fifth, only losing contact with the medalists in the last two kilometers.

Success at the distance wasn’t immediately forthcoming for Lamdassem but the 40-year-old regained sole ownership of the Spanish record with 2:06:25 in Seville this February from Hamid Ben Daoud, also Munich-bound, who tied Lamdassem’s mark with 2:06:35 in Valencia last December.

Athletics Marathon - Olympics: Day 16

With challenging conditions expected for the marathon, both races are likely to favor experienced runners with a proven championship background. One athlete who fits that bill is Belgium’s Koen Naert who won gold four years ago in Berlin in a championship record of 2:09:51 and finished tenth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

German hopes will be centered on Amanal Petros who improved the German record to 2:06:27 in Valencia last year while other sub-2:07 performers due to compete are Sweden’s Samuel Tsegay (2:06:53) and Israel’s Maru Teferi ( 2:06:58).

The fastest entrants in the women’s race based on lifetime best performances are Nienke Brinkman from the Netherlands (2:22:51) and Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack (2:23:58), two runners with significantly contrasting backgrounds in the sport.

While Brinkman only took up running as a serious pursuit during the coronavirus-enforced lockdowns in 2020, McCormack picked up her first Irish vest more than 20 years ago at the 2001 SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

McCormack has won countless European medals at cross country and a bronze medal indoors over 3000m but she is yet to win a medal at the European Athletics Championships, just missing out on the medals in the 10,000m in 2012 and 2016. This could be her best luck yet.

Athletics Marathon - Olympics: Day 15

After winning silver in the 3000m steeplechase four years ago, Switzerland’s Fabienne Schlumpf will be looking to rejuvenate her promising marathon career which has been punctuated by illness by reaching the podium again. And a strong German contingent which includes Miriam Dattke and Katharina Steinruck should be in contention for both individual and team medals.

Honorable mentions are also in order for Portugal’s Sara Moreira, the 2016 European half marathon champion; Anna Incerti, the 2010 European champion who will be representing Italy for the first time in a major championships since the 2016 Olympics; and Finland’s Annemari Kiekara, the oldest competitor in the race at 45.

Kiekara might be an unfamiliar name but under her maiden name, Annemari Sandell was one of the standout European distance runners of the mid-1990s. Among her list of honors was the gold medal she won at the 1995 European Cross Country Championships in Alnwick at the age of 18.

The Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics website.

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