Palmisano hands Italy perfect Euro start with race walk victory

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Italy;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Italy</a>'s Antonella Palmisano en route to winning the European 20km race walk in Rome (Andreas SOLARO)
Italy's Antonella Palmisano en route to winning the European 20km race walk in Rome (Andreas SOLARO)

Antonella Palmisano handed Italy the perfect start as hosts of the European athletics championships by winning the opening medal event, the 20km race walk, on Friday.

The 32-year-old reigning Olympic champion timed 1hr 28min 09sec around a stunning course in roasting conditions that saw many race walkers using ice packs around their necks.

Palmisano dominated the circuits of the Stadio dei Marmi, the warm-up stadium in Rome's Olympic complex surrounded by 60 four-metre (13ft) tall classical marble statues of athletes dating back to Italy's Fascist era under Benito Mussolini.

Lapping rivals at will, Palmisano finished with a celebratory lap in the Stadio Olimpico, draped in an Italian flag, to wild cheering from a small crowd.

"Until today I was missing the gold medal at the European championships and I wanted to take it in Rome, to bring even more attention on the race walk," Palmisano said.

"The feelings were really perfect: it was incredible to walk into the Foro Italico and around the Stadio dei Marmi in front of the Italian public."

There was an Italian 1-2 as Valentina Trapletti claimed silver in 1:28.37.

"Sharing the podium with Valentina Trapletti is fantastic: she did a perfect race: we took the first gold and first silver medal here in Rome and we hope that more will come in the next days," said Palmisano.

"Winning in Rome was a dream, now I want do my best to win again at the Olympics, in Paris."

Spain's Laura Garcia-Caro thought she would be rounding out the podium, but celebrated too soon and was edged at the line by Ukraine's Lyudmila Olyanovska in a photo finish.