Race walking action (© Getty Images)
Mexico’s Pedro Daniel Gomez and local walker Wang Yingliu claimed surprise victories in the men’s and women’s 20km events at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge meeting in Taicang, China, on Saturday (23).
It was the fifth edition since the Challenge meeting was first launched in the southeastern city of China in 2011 – with the IAAF World Race Walking Cup also being held here in 2014 – and Chinese athletes have swept all the titles in the previous four editions but the 25-year-old Gomez finally broke the hosts’ domination and became the overseas athlete to win in Taicang.
Competing in cool conditions with the temperature staying around 16 degrees Celsius and light rain falling off-and-on, Gomez raced down his countryman Ever Palma over the final kilometre and crossed the line in 1:20:52, with the latter two seconds behind in second place
It is the first ever international victory as a senior for Gomez, who was the runner-up at the 2007 IAAF World Youth Championships and 2009 Pan American junior champion over 10,000m on the track, although his winning mark in Taicang was 47 seconds shy of his personal best set earlier this month when he finished seventh in Podebrady, Czech Republic.
Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom has improved his personal best twice this season and set a national record of 1:19:11 en route to winning in Podebrady, where he beat both Gomez and Palma, but in Taicang he was just a little below his best and finished third in 1:21:03.
In the absence of London 2012 Olympic Games champion Chen Ding, two-time world silver medallist Wang Zhen and World Cup silver medallist Cai Zelin – all of whom are preparing for the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Rome 2016 where China are expected to be a formidable presence– Wang Rui finished as the fastest Chinese walker in fourth place with 1:21:23.
Ricardo Ortiz, only 21, completed a good day for Mexico when he improved his best by almost four minutes to finish fifth in 1:21:45 while Australia’s 2012 Olympic champion 20km Jared Tallent, competing in Taicang for the sixth straight year, is still looking for his first win in the Chinese city after finishing sixth in 1:21:50.
In the women’s race, neither former champion Sun Huanhuan nor fellow Chinese national team member Yang Jiayu, both of whom were on the entry lists, showed up on the start line and instead it was another Chinese walker, Wang Yingliu, who took the honours with a convincing win by more than minute in 1:30:51, just 31 seconds slower than her PB set in Beijing last year and
It is the second victory this month for the 24-year-old Wang , who clocked 1:31:04 to win at the second leg of Chinese National Race Walk Grand Prix in Shangrao two weeks ago.
China’s Xie Lijuan, a former national junior champion in 2009, finished second in 1:32:19 while Hungary’s Viktoria Madarasz set a season best of 1:32:33 to finish third.
As is the case in the men’s race, most of China’s best known and leading female race walkers – including world champion and world record-holder Liu Hong, world silver medallist Lu Xiuzhi and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Qieyang Shenjie –were absent and preparing for the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Rome 2016 in two weeks’ time.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF