Paul McGrath, the rising star in race walking, claimed the gold medal in the men’s 20km race walk event at the 2023 European Athletics U23 Championships held in Espoo, Finland. McGrath, who U20 gold in the 10,000m race walk in 2021, returned to the championship this year and stormed to victory in 1:21:03 in the 20km race walk contest.
McGrath and Italian athlete Andrea Cosi exchanged the lead in the opening half of the contest. However, a yellow card for Cosi early in the second section of the contest proved to be a turning point. Seizing the opportunity, McGrath surged ahead from the 10km mark and maintained his lead for the rest of the race, crossing the finish line with a personal best time of 1:21:03.
Despite the setback, Cosi managed to recover and secure the silver with a time of 1:23:02, while Jerry Jokinen from the home nation, Finland, secured third place with a national U23 record time of 1:24:41.
Other notable performances included Aythamy Afonso Gonzalez from Spain and Mattéo Duc from France, achieving personal bests at 1:25:17 and 1:25:18, respectively.
Adding to the European Athletics Championships honor
This victory marks another milestone in McGrath’s burgeoning career, adding to his impressive list of accolades, which includes a bronze medal at the 10,000m Race Walk World U20 Championships and a gold at the 10,000m Race Walk European Junior Championships, both in 2021.
“In one word, this race was just amazing,” the Spaniard said during his after-race interview at Espoo 2023. “I am not a star yet. But it is in my dreams that one day, I want to become one of the best racewalkers in the world.
“That is my main goal for the next couple of years. Two years ago, I was not a favorite for the win, not even for the podium, so it was quite a big accomplishment to win the medal.”
Meanwhile, Jokinen was delighted to win a medal for the host country.
“Before the race, I drew the picture on the back side of my bib – and it showed the medal with the number three,” he said. “It was the first time I did it. I was surprised it worked. I knew it myself, I was confident I could make it, but I just kept it for myself and did not tell anyone.
“It just worked. It is so nice to show to Finnland that I can do this, that I am good.”
The women’s U23 event at the European Championships today, saw Pauline Stey of France emerging as the winner after she set a new national U23 record with a time of 1:31:17, while setting a new personal best.
Tuesday was the first of the five days of competition and live streaming coverage will be available on the European Athletics website on the All-Athletics platform.