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Report21 Apr 2024

Yang prevails over speedy Spaniards to win U20 women's 10km in Antalya


Yang Xizhen wins the U20 women's 10km in Antalya (© Sergio Mateo)

A terrific last kilometre proved decisive for China’s Yang Xizhen as she strode to victory in the U20 women's 10km at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24 on Sunday (21).

The race set off at a slower pace, with the first kilometre covered in 4:45 as athletes tried to get a feel for the course. The opening 2km loop was completed in 9:33, with the three Chinese athletes at the helm headed by Chen Meiling. She was closely followed by Duo Jiecuo and world U20 leader Yang, plus the three Spaniards: the European U20 champion Sofia Santacreu, Griselda Serret and Aldara Meilan. 

It was the latter who took the lead just before the third kilometre, which was reached in 14:18 for another moderate 4:45 section. By then Spain led the team scoring ahead of China and Italy.

Meilan and Santacreu increased the pace in the fourth kilometre to clock 4:35, with the Chinese race walkers on their shoulders. By then, the leading group featured 19 athletes. The cadence heated up again in the fifth kilometre with a 4:27 split to reach halfway in 23:20, with the lead pack down to 10 athletes. 

The relentless rhythm continued over the following kilometre and Duo surprisingly lost ground. Only six women remained at the front by the sixth kilometre checkpoint: the Spanish duo of Meilan and Santacreu, the Chinese pair of Chen and Yang, Serbia’s Mina Stankovic and Italy’s Giulia Gabriele. The Spanish champion Meilan led the race at the seventh kilometre – the quickest up to that point – following a 4:17 split, with her five chasers in close attendance.

By the bell, hit in 36:36, the leading group had whittled down to four athletes as first Gabriele and then Stankovic just couldn’t keep with the frantic rhythm at the helm. 

The final 2km loop became a thriller as Chen withdrew from the lead quartet before reaching the ninth kilometre and the race became a three-way battle between Yang and the two Spaniards. That trio clocked 40:56 with one kilometre remaining, while Chen travelled five seconds in arrears. 

Yang made her decisive move some 700m from home when she unleashed a devastating kick to leave Meilan and Santacreu easily behind, cementing a solid lead in a matter of a few strides. 

In the fight for second place, Meilan proved to be stronger than Santacreu, while Stankovic was disqualified with barely 150m remaining when she desperately tried to catch Santacreu in the fight for the final place on the podium. Gabriele overtook Chen in the closing stages to take fourth.

Yang’s terrific closing kilometre was timed at 4:10 for a 45:06 winning performance. Meilan grabbed silver, six seconds in arrears, and Santacreu secured bronze in a lifetime best of 45:17. 

The team title went to Spain for the first time, the gold medal having been taken by either Russia or China in the previous nine editions. They scored five points to China’s six and Italy’s 11. Meilan and Santacreu also won the first individual U20 women’s medals for Spain in the history of the championships.

“I felt comfortable over the last kilometre and managed to win,” said Yang. “This is a very important victory for me and a stepping stone for the World U20 Championships in Lima in August and hopefully some Olympics in the future.”

As for Meilan, the 17-year-old said: “We started slow into the race because this is our first World Race Walking Team Championships and we did not know how to manage it. Then I felt better and increased the speed. The team gold medal is even more valuable for us than the individual silver and bronze medals.”

Santacreu said: “We are really surprised having won the team title. Honestly, we thought China would be the winner, but this gold medal shows how high the standard in Spain is.”

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics

🥇 Yang Xizhen (CHN) 45:06
🥈 Aldara Meilan (ESP) 45:12
🥉 Sofia Santacreu (ESP) 45:17 PB
4 Giulia Gabriele (ITA) 45:26 PB
5 Chen Meiling (CHN) 45:35
6 Griselda Serret (ESP) 46:12 PB
7 Serena Di Fabio (ITA) 46:12 PB
8 Alessia Cristina Pop (ROU) 46:16 PB
9 Michelle Canto (ITA) 46:27 PB
10 Ema Klimentova (CZE) 46:28 PB
  Full results


🥇 Spain 5
🥈 China 6
🥉 Italy 11
  Full results


WRW Antalya 24 highlights