Zhang Jun in the 10,000m race walk at the IAAF World Youth Championships Cali 2015 (© Getty Images)
Cesar Augusto Rodriguez is the sole survivor from the top 10 at the IAAF World Junior Championships Oregon 2014. As a result, an elevation to the U20 men’s 10km podium at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Rome 2016 on Saturday will get short odds.
Even though he is still just 18, Rodriguez bettered his personal mark to 41:01.71 in Lima last year and endorsed the rise of another newcomer to the sport.
Peru has entered race walkers for all five races over the weekend in the Italian capital – a far cry from recent times when Colombia and Brazil stood alone waving the South American flag at major championships.
However, the current top eight on the 2016 U20 men’s world list all come from just one country: China.
The country of a billion plus has brought just two to Rome. But as it is race walkers one and two on the list, it would be hard to argue against world youth silver medallist Zhang Jun, who clocked 40:10 in March, and Jin Xiangqian, who recorded 40:43 a month later in Taicang.
Spain’s Manuel Bermudez could challenge Rodriguez and the Chinese duo, having notched 41:23.3 last month. Australia’s Tyler Jones and Adam Garganis, who have clocked 43:39.86 and 43:13.24 on the track in Sydney and Perth respectively, are both in the current top 10 on the 2016 U20 world list.
Japan has pedigree at senior level, and their juniors are also making inroads on the world scene.
Masaya Ishikawa stopped the clock at 41:01 in Kobe in February and, nine seconds after, Masatora Kawano claimed second. Both are ready and able to repeat the feat in Rome.
Great Britain has never had a junior race walker finish inside the top eight at these championships, but Callum Wilkinson could be the athlete to end that drought. The 19-year-old is undefeated outdoors this year, winning in Podebrady and Dudince after setting a national U20 record of 41:31 in March.
Iraq has a single race walker in the U20 race. Quite what it took Mustafa Razzak Alwan to make the starting line has yet to be discovered. But as the national senior 20km record for a country in turmoil is a lowly club standard 1:54:38, as long as Alwan gets round, he will have notched one more victory for athletics and race walking in particular.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF