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Report21 Apr 2024

Garcia gets gold, striding to 20km title in Antalya


Kimberly Garcia on her way to the 20km title at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24 (© Sergio Mateo)

Kimberly Garcia strode imperiously to the 20km title at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24 on Sunday (21).

It was only March when the Peruvian double 2022 World Championships gold medallist stepped off the road in Dudince, barely 2km into World Athletics Race Walking Tour Gold event, but the 30-year-old bounced back in style with a win at Podebrady at the beginning of the month, and now here thanks to her 1:27:12 performance.

The middle of the race saw the temperature rise both figuratively and literally.

Garcia and her teammate Evelyn Inga ramped up the pace to walk as a duo for just under half the remainder.

It looked as if gold and silver was decided, but disaster struck for Inga when on the last lap of 10 she suffered a two-minute penalty following three red cards.

Such was her lead, there was still a moment of drama when released out of the zone as she chased third place only to finish a desperate four seconds behind Brazil’s Erica Sena, enjoying a splendid renaissance at the age of 38.

In front of both and claiming second was defending champion Ma Zhenxia.

The Chinese athlete had walked solo since 10km, but was rewarded for her effort when Inga got stalled.

The improving Paula Torres from Ecuador stepped out of the shadow of her more illustrious teammate Glenda Morejon to claim fifth in 1:29:47, only 15 seconds outside her PB, and on hot day on a shade-less course they were the only race walkers under 1:30:00.  

Early on, the field was stretched with a phalanx of leaders headed by Garcia going through the first kilometre in a modest 4:37.

By the end of the first 2km circuit, the group had been whittled down to a more realistic 14, including unknown Ethiopian Sintayehu Masire.

The trimmed bunch was no surprise considering the second kilometre was 14 seconds quicker than the first. 

By another 2km lap, Garcia’s pace had halved the group to seven including the defending champion, Morejon, Masire, Ji Haiying and Shi Yuxia from China, and Inga followed by another seven around 30 metres in arrears.

Just after 5km in 22:04, Garcia and Ma put the hammer down to distance themselves for a few seconds before Morejon and Inga got back on.

The last kilometre had been covered in 4:19, and as the pace like the weather got hotter, Morejon started to struggle.

The front three went even faster for a 4:18 lap to pass 8km in 35:00 exactly.

It was now a trio with the isolated Morejon and Shi also walking solo, with Torres giving chase to the Chinese.

Garcia swapped cooling towels for her neck approaching halfway as the clock showed 43:39.

Morejon notched 44:01 and was out of the medals, with Torres alongside Shi in 44:20.

Whatever is in those towels, the rest of the field could have done with one, because Peru to the power of two went through the gears to ease away from Ma, whose painful grimace was a giveaway.

The Chinese style was also becoming less smooth as she struggled to hold on to a 4:16 pace. 

The 12km split was 52:15 for the leading pair, and although Ma was isolated, she was only nine seconds back and just about causing doubt to Garcia and Inga.

That doubt soon dissipated at three-quarter distance in 65:16; it was now 22 seconds back to third, and race done for gold and silver, or so it seemed.

Taking the next turn, Garcia decided now was the time to sort out top spot on the podium. 

She put in yet another surge for a four-second advantage over the next kilometre.

In fact, with Torres now a lone fourth and Sena making ground and also walking without company, the first five places appeared settled.

However, fate dealt a cruel hand to Inga, and she was all but on a starting block as she raced out of the penalty zone to just miss out on a medal.

For all that, she too has had a good 2024 so far, winning in Podebrady when Garcia was a DNF.

Inga’s game effort also produced a team silver medal to deny Peru first place by the slimmest of margins.

China triumphed with 15 points, the same as Peru, but only on count back.

Spain, packing well in eighth, ninth and 13th, claimed a distant third.

Paul Warburton for World Athletics

🥇 Kimberly Garcia Leon (PER) 1:27:12
🥈 Ma Zhenxia (CHN) 1:27:55
🥉 Erica Sena (BRA) 1:29:22
4 Evelyn Inga (PER) 1:29:26
5 Paula Milena Torres (ECU) 1:29:47
6 Ji Haiying (CHN) 1:30:08
7 Shi Yuxia (CHN) 1:30:21
8 Lidia Sanchez-Puebla (ESP) 1:30:24 PB
9 Antia Chamosa (ESP) 1:30:32 PB
10 Mary Luz Andia (PER) 1:31:05
  Full results


🥇 China 15
🥈 Peru 15
🥉 Spain 31
  Full results


WRW Antalya 24 highlights