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Report05 Mar 2022

Yamanishi retains 20km title for Japan in Muscat


Toshikazu Yamanishi leads the men's 20km in Muscat (© Dan Vernon)

Japan dominated the men's 20km event at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Muscat 22 yet again, only this time it was Toshikazu Yamanishi taking gold.

The world champion saw off teammate and defending World Race Walking Team Championships winner Koki Ikeda shortly before 11km with a decisive move up the hill on a testing course on Saturday (5), clocking 1:22:52. The eventual silver medallist claimed gold in Taicang in 2018, but was second best in every sense this time, recording 1:23:29.

Even so, the pair with impressive PBs well under 1:18:00 stamped their authority very early. Behind them, an impressive battle for third was a real race for more than half the distance.

A chasing group of six then fell apart at 14km, leaving Australian Declan Tingay and Kenya's Samuel Gathimba chasing bronze.

Tingay sensed Ikeda was struggling and upped his effort. Unfortunately for the man who was 17th at the Olympics and then scored a PB of 1:20:44 in February, he also caught the judges’ attention. He was to serve a two-minute penalty less than 100m from the finish, but had already been passed by Gathimba, who claimed Kenya’s first ever medal at these championships in 1:23:52.

The 34-year-old known as ‘Speedy’ was the epitome of athletics joy as he raised his arms to heaven and then beat them in excitement on the tarmac having sunk to his knees in gratitude. Kenya has long been a giant at distance running. Maybe, after this worthy bronze, they will see race walking as another route to success.

Behind the leading three, Brian Pintado claimed fourth for Ecuador, which was to prove crucial in the team event. By the final reckoning, his country had pipped Japan by just a single point, with China in third.

Spain’s Diego Garcia finished fifth and Mexico's Saul Mena was sixth.

Earlier, Alberto Amezcua went to the front straight away, with teammate Garcia shadowing and five others notching a nippy first kilometre in 4:08. The leaders then concertinaed with a big pack coming back up the hill and reached 2km in 8:34. It emphasised the see-saw nature of flying down a hill, and having to climb back up it.

Australia’s Kyle Swan decided if there was to be hare it might as well be him, and moved ahead to record 12:47 at 3km - comfortable, by the standards of most of the field. The Australian with a PB of 1:21:39 from February was quickly caught by Yamanishi as they hit 4km in 17:08. 

The Japanese then forged a 20-metre gap, not least because the fifth kilometre was the fastest so far - 4:07. Eider Arevalo was the only athlete to give chase from a large group of 34 separated by a handful of seconds. But the Colombian 2017 world champion soon gave up the idea of walking between a rock and a hard place and re-joined the group almost as soon as he left it.

As he did, Ikeda decided he was up for chasing his compatriot and was only four seconds behind at 8km in 33:48. 

The chasers were reduced to six that included Pintado, India's Sandeep Kumar, Tingay and Gathimba clearly having good races, but a 4:02 ninth kilometre saw the land of the rising sun headed for gold and silver even before halfway. That mark was clocked at 41:59, which to the Japanese was ambling, but still 27 seconds in front of the half dozen straining to get back in touch.

Yamanishi had a second go to get away approaching 11km, and opened a five-second lead over Ikeda. It was hardly a surprise considering that last 1000m was the first under four minutes in 3:57. 

The six vying for bronze were 43 seconds in arrears at 12km, but that group was also coming apart at the seams.

Two kilometres later, Tingay and Garcia had inched ahead to leave Pintado, Gathimba and Kumar seemingly walking solo for the minor places. But the Spaniard couldn't hold on, and at 16km, Tingay had a clear view of a tiring Ikeda and set off to catch him followed by Gathimba, and clearly sensing his chance. 

By contrast, Yamanishi never looked as if he was working.

His immaculate style never wavered for a stride, and when he threw away his cap at the bell, there was never a chance he would throw away his return to glory.

Sorely disappointed by just a bronze on home soil at the Olympics, there was no-one going to take away his first place this time.

Paul Warburton for World Athletics

1 Toshikazu Yamanishi 🇯🇵 JPN 1:22:52 SB
2 Koki Ikeda 🇯🇵 JPN 1:23:29 SB
3 Samuel Gathimba 🇰🇪 KEN 1:23:52 SB
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