YORK is gearing up for one of the top European race walking meetings when the city hosts the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
The York Sport Village competition is one of the last major warm-up events for the leading athletes to prepare for the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August.
The British Grand Prix, an international ranking meeting, will feature the men’s and women’s 20 kilometre race, along with the junior men’s and women’s ten kilometre races. More than 40 competitors from 12 countries will take part.
Staged at the Sport Village cycle circuit, the competition has been designated by the European Athletics Association as a European Race Walking Permit Meeting, which is part of a series held across the continent in Switzerland, Slovakia, Portugal, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Russia.
The junior races offer the chance of qualification for next month's IAAF World Junior Championships in Oregen.
Keith Morris, head of sport at the University of York, said: “For this event to be linked to the European Athletics Race Walking tour is a big win for us. To have the facilities to now be able to bring high calibre athletes is all very positive.
“Event director Ian Richards knows what he is doing and everything is all in order. Having the British number one Tom Bosworth here is pretty big for us, especially when they are based in Leeds, so it is going to be good.”
Great Britain squad member Bethan Davies will be one of the strong Yorkshire contingent from the Leeds-based National Race Walking Centre.
She will joined in the women’s 20km race by reigning Commonwealth champion and British record holder Jo Atkinson, while Leeds City AC member Ellie Dooley competes in the women’s 10km.
Leeds-based New Zealand star Quentin Rew, who represented his country at the London Olympic Games over 50km, will compete in the 20km.
He will be joined by Leeds Metropolitan University student and world number 75 Tom Bosworth, while Jamie Higgins will make the step up from the junior men’s.
In the last European Athletics Race Walking Permit Meeting in Podebrady in the Czech Republic, Slovakia's Matej Toth headed the field with Bosworth finishing in an impressive tenth position and Higgins 21st.
The British Grand Prix is free to watch and will get under way at 10.15am on Sunday with the junior women’s 10km and senior women’s 20km.
The junior men’s 10km and senior men’s 20km races start at 10.30am, while an open 3km event will follow at 12.40pm.
Rich history of race walking success in Yorkshire
YORKSHIRE and York have a long history in race walking events including the world’s first amateur race walking event.
In 1903, the race walk was staged between Bradford’s George Hotel and the Windmill Hotel in York on May 31 (Whit Monday), thus becoming the Bradford Whit Monday Walk which regularly attracted thousands of spectators each year.
Former Commonwealth Games medallist Roy Thorpe, who was made an honorary life member by the Race Walking Association in 2011, hails from West Lilling near Sheriff Hutton.
He won more than 500 competitions in a 27-year career of top-level competition. He held world masters records at 5km and 25km on the track and since his retirement has coached, organised, officiated and sponsored race walks.
He has also been the northern president of the Race Walking Association.
The highlight of his long career came when he won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1974.
Meanwhile, the late Ernest Cambridge was a York race walking hero, winning more than 50 competitions during the late 1970s and mid-1980s.
He was born in Aldershot but moved to Murton, near York, after being evacuated during the war.
In 1970, he won his first road race walking competition at the Britannia Inn in Acomb before he teamed up with friends to form the Thunderbirds team representing the Clarence Club, who dominated many events along with winning several invitational road walks.
A bricklayer's labourer for most of his life, Cambridge's speed at carrying a full hod of bricks up a scaffold earned him the nickname "Ernie, the fastest hodman in the West".
RACE walking is a progression of steps taken in such a way so that one foot must be touching the floor at all times, without any visible loss of contact to the human eye.
The advancing leg has to be straightened - ie not bent at the knee - from the moment of the first contact with ground until the vertical upright position.
If a judge observes an athlete failing to comply with the rules, they will send a red card to the chief judge. When three red cards for the particular athlete are sent by three different judges then the athlete will be disqualified.