09. 08. 2018 13:58
Slovak race walker Matej Tóth finished second in the 50-kilometre competition at the 24th European Athletics Championship in Berlin, less than one minute behind Maryan Zakalnytskyy from Ukraine, and half a minute ahead of Dimitry Dziubin from Belarus.
Tóth, aged 35 and a 2016 Olympic champion and 2014 European runner-up champion, led the field in the first 30 kilometres on a two-kilometre long city circuit in the German capital, before dropping to fourth later in the race.
Nonetheless, by displaying a remarkable effort in the final few kilometres, he managed to secure a silver medal in the scorching heat of the streets of Berlin. The athlete said:
"Preparation for the championship was certainly very demanding, but this 50 kilometre track has been extra hard. Every step was carved out and the medal was really worth the effort."
He finished in 3:47:27 hours, and finally fell to his knees at the finish, totally exhausted, and immediately congratulated the surprising winner, Ukrainian Zakalnytskyy.
Although he did not achieve a race-walking hat-trick, he gave a great performance, earning the title of European vice-champion for the second time in his life.
"This silver has the worth of gold for me," Tóth commented, "I had emotions comparable to the Olympics in Rio." He also said that around the 40th kilometre, he was not interested in his place but rather felt like fighting for survival. Tóth described his struggle with these words: "every cell wanted to give its everything on the track." However, the successful athlete would like to continue his career:
"I think that this silver medal and the atmosphere in Berlin are rather a motivation for me to go on and continue bringing joy to Slovakia. On the other hand, the drill from Berlin questions my future abilities, what I am still able to deliver."
Tóth's coach Matej Spišiak told that his trainee made a great performance and returned to the races after a doping scandal like a true champion. Spišiak added he was proud of all Slovak international racers. Another Slovak, Dušan Majdan, ended 15th, and among the women, Mária Katerinka Czaková ended in sixth place.