British And Irish Titles Up For Grabs at the British Grand Prix of Race Walking at Roundhay Park
The British Grand Prix of Race Walking is a free to watch, world-class athletics event that will be held at Leeds Roundhay Park on June 30th. This exciting race incorporates the British 20km Championships, the Irish 20km Championships and the British Team Trial event for the World Athletics Championships. The Grand Prix is a major fixture in the British athletic calendar and is not to be missed.
Race walking is a technical endurance athletic event, included in the Olympic Games. It is a tricky discipline to master, since athletes must maintain contact with the ground at all times, and must ensure that their landing leg remains straight. Races are judged so that athletes maintain a good walking technique, which can be challenging when athletes try to push their limits in order to win medals and gain qualification times.
Leeds is home to the National Centre for Racewalking, which is headed by Andi Drake and boasts some of the best racewalkers the UK has ever seen. Tom Bosworth is one such athlete. He is somewhat of a national sporting celebrity, with accolades including 6th in the 20km walk at the Rio 2016 Olympics, a world best in the mile walk with a time of 5:31 (a time many would struggle to run), and a silver medal and British record of 79:38 in the 20km at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Bosworth will be racing on Sunday and is sure overall race favourite. He will looking to maintain his winning streak, since he has won the British Grand Prix of Race Walking for the past three years. However, training partner Callum Wilkinson, who is also based in Leeds, is likely to be battling for the top positon, too. Wilkinson won the 10,000m walk at the IAAF World Junior Championships in 2016 and since then has continued to improve. He recently took gold at the Slovakian 10km race walk championships earlier this month in 39:31, setting a PB in the process.
Another Leeds athlete to look out for at the Grand Prix is Cameron Corbishley. This Kent born athlete will also be in the mix for a medal, and potential World Champs qualification time, after his impressive start to the season. Corbishley’s standout debut 50km performance in Dudince saw him clock a time of 3:53:20, which was not only a British U23 record but also a qualification time for the World Championships.
International athletes are also going to be toeing the line at Roundhay Park. Brendan Boyce (Ireland) will certainly be one to watch after recently qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, after finishing 5th in the 50km (3:48.13). Other athletes to look out for in this exciting event include Lukáš Gdula (Czech Republic) and Aleksi Ojala (Finland) who have 20km PBs of 85:50, and 83:16 respectively, and could both be in the mix for podium positions, and World Champ qualifications.
The women’s race is also hotly contested. Welsh athlete Heather Lewis has had an impressive start to the season, in which she set a new 20km PB of 95:04 at the European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting. However, Lewis’ compatriot, Bethan Davies, who graduated from Leeds University in 2013, is also strong competition for the podium. Davies is currently number 2 on the UK All Time list after clocking 91.53 in 2018, and is reigning British champion. Both Lewis and Davies will be looking to achieve the World Champs qualification time of 93:30 so that they can join the GB team and book themselves a seat on the plane to Doha in September.
The Isle of Man athlete Erika Kelly, who regularly trains in Leeds, is also likely to be battling for a medal in the British champ race, after setting a new 10km PB of 47:17 in March. Kelly has been going from strength to strength and achieved her first GB vest earlier this year. In Leeds, Kelly will be looking to improve her pb of 99.36 set in Lugano in 2018.
The event is free for spectators and the course is 500 metres out and back loop on the Carriage Drive alongside Waterloo Lake. The action gets underway at 9.30, with male winners expected to cross the finish line at about 10.50.
For more details visit the event website here.
Or follow @Leedswalk on Twitter for live updates.
Photographs provided by Gemma Bridge.
Gemma, a PhD student at Leeds Beckett University, has been writing for over 6 years, and loves to share what’s going on in and around Leeds. She is also an international athlete, artist and creator of Leeds Food Guide. You can find her on Instagram at: @GLB_racewalk, @GLB_creations or @LeedsFoodGuide