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Report21 Apr 2024

Karlstrom reigns again, taking 20km title in Antalya


Perseus Karlstrom celebrates his 20km win at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24 (© Sergio Mateo)

Two years after his 35km success in Muscat, Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom emerged as the 20km champion at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24, prevailing over the Spanish duo of Paul McGrath and Diego Garcia on Sunday (21).

Italy’s Riccardo Orsoni was the early leader, going through the opening kilometre at a comfortable 4:10 cadence closely followed by the Chinese trio of Asian Games silver medallist Wang Zhaozhao, Wen Yongjie and Lu Ning.

The Italian continued to dictate the pace at 4:00 kilometre cadence to go through the fourth kilometre in 16:16. At that stage, 30 athletes remained in the lead pack. 

The fifth kilometre became the first under the 4:00 barrier, courtesy of world silver medallist Karlstrom’s change of speed, with Spain’s European bronze medallist Garcia and Italy’s Gianluca Picchiottino closest to the tall Swede.

The sixth kilometre also saw an exact 4:00 on the clock with new race walkers moving to the front. They included Ecuadorians Brian Pintado and David Hurtado plus Japan’s Satoshi Maruo, while surprisingly Ethiopia’s Misgana Wakuma Fekansa also race walked at the helm. 

Just before the halfway point the sun appeared on the scene and the temperature began to rise but that was not a barrier for the front race walkers who maintained their 4:00 rhythm for an overall 40:17 time. By then, 20 athletes remained in contention led by Karlstrom, Japan’s Ryo Hamanishi and the Spanish duo of Garcia and European U23 champion McGrath. The heading group began to progressively lose units and by the 11th kilometre the pack had whittled down to eight race walkers.

The first serious movement came during the following kilometre when Karlstrom and McGrath ramped up their speed – 3:54 for the 12th kilometre – taking turns at the helm. Only three rivals managed to live with their pace: Japan’s Yuta Koga, Hurtado and the surprise Rasulbek Dilmurodov of Uzbekistan. McGrath then decided to inject an even swifter rhythm and the rest of that quintet was forced to race walk in crocodile file following a 3:52km split for the 22-year-old rising Spaniard. McGrath seemed to have killed the race thanks to a 3:49 14th kilometre as he built a three-second margin on Karlstrom and Hurtado, while Koga travelled a lonesome fourth another 16 seconds behind. Surprisingly, the top Chinese athlete Lu ranked only 15th by then.

The 15th kilometre was even faster, McGrath clocking 3:46, but he had been reeled in by Karlstrom after a stunning 3:43 split for the Swede while Hurtado was disqualified as he tried to follow in McGrath and Karlstrom’s footsteps. The leading pair slowed down a bit over the 16th kilometre, clocking 3:52, but Karlstrom put in a 3:48 kilometre to open a three-second advantage on the Spaniard. 

At the bell the Swede had covered another kilometre in 3:48 and it became clear that he was not going to be caught by McGrath, who had already lost 13 seconds with one loop left.

Over the final lap, Karlstrom easily maintained his solid lead before slowing down in the closing 100m to celebrate his first World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships podium at 20km. His previous best performance was a 42nd spot back in 2010.

This time, 1:18:49 was his winning performance. 

While McGrath confirmed his role as a rising star at the senior level courtesy of his silver medal in 1:19:14 – his second ever quickest time and the first individual medal for Spain at the distance since 2016 – the battle for bronze was thrilling. Koga led from Garcia and Germany’s Christopher Linke at the bell but a charging Pintado overtook all of them to edge into third place inside the closing kilometre. Garcia then managed to get rid of Linke and pass Koga, and the 28-year-old witnessed how Pintado was disqualified just 300m before the finish line, taking advantage of that circumstance to secure his first individual medal at a global senior championships with a 1:19:51 performance.

In the team contest, Spain became a commanding winner thanks to a 13 point score to Japan’s 26 and Italy’s 33. That secured the nation its second team gold medal in this discipline at the championships, following the country’s 2006 success.

“Conditions were not as hot as I wanted, to take advantage of having spent two weeks here in Antalya, as last week we had 30 degrees,” said Karlstrom. “It was a very comfortable win today. I felt so strong. 

“I really smashed many of the top 10 list athletes from last year’s World Championships in Budapest and the closest was 25 seconds behind; that’s a big confidence booster. I did a couple of specific 20km training sessions before this race after my win in Podebrady. 

“It was also great to see Mondo (Duplantis) jump a new world record yesterday. Sweden has a lot to show, competing with the best in the world.”

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics

🥇 Perseus Karlstrom (SWE) 1:18:49
🥈 Paul McGrath (ESP) 1:19:14
🥉 Diego Garcia Carrera (ESP) 1:19:51
4 Yuta Koga (JPN) 1:19:54
5 Christopher Linke (GER) 1:19:57
6 Jordy Rafael Jimenez Arrobo (ECU) 1:20:04 PB
7 Riccardo Orsoni (ITA) 1:20:11 PB
8 Alvaro Lopez (ESP) 1:20:20 PB
9 Satoshi Maruo (JPN) 1:20:23
10 Misgana Wakuma Fekansa (ETH) 1:20:51 NR
  Full results


🥇 Spain 13
🥈 Japan 26
🥉 Italy 33
  Full results


WRW Antalya 24 highlights