Ecuadorian race walker Glenda Morejon in action (© Getty Images)
Ecuador’s Glenda Morejon made a major breakthrough on Saturday (8) by taking a surprise victory at the Gran Premio Cantones de Marcha, the Spanish leg of the 2019 IAAF Race Walking Challenge.
On a cloudy afternoon that was ideal for endurance events, with an absence of wind and the thermometer reading about 14C, the 19-year-old world U20 bronze medallist produced the fastest ever 20km debut as she clocked a stunning 1:25:29. Her time is not only a world U20 best, it is also a senior South American record and a world-leading performance.
In the men’s race, Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi showed his recent Asian Championships victory wasn’t a fluke as he won in 1:17:41.
Teenager Morejon beats race walking stars
The women’s race had been billed as a thrilling encounter between the top Chinese race walkers, but instead it witnessed the rise of a new race walking race ace in the form of Glenda Morejon who startled the assembled crowd with a world-class performance.
Right from the start, the Chinese quartet of world record-holder Liu Hong, 2012 Olympic silver medallist Qieyang Shenjie, world champion Yang Jiayu and Asian champion Ma Zhenxia took the lead and was joined in the opening kilometres by Japan’s Kumiko Okada, Brazil’s Erica de Sena and the diminutive Morejon.
First De Sena and then Okada lost ground but surprisingly Morejon managed to follow the rhythm of the Chinese women. The halfway point was reached by the lead quartet in 42:55 – faster than Morejon’s 10km PB of 43:04 – close to the schedule for a world-leading time.
The 4:16/4:18-per-kilometre pace proved too fast for defending champion Qieyang and Ma and they started to fade shortly before the 14km point. The race became a three-woman contest between Liu, Yang and Morejon.
Surprisingly, given it was her debut at the distance, it was the Ecuadorian who ruled the race during the latter stages. In the final kilometre she sped away from her top-class opponents with impressive ease, crossing the line in 1:25:29 to finish five seconds ahead of Yang, who was rewarded with a lifetime best. Liu finished third in 1:25:56, equalling the third-best time of her distinguished career.
It was the first international 20km race in which three women have finished inside 1:26. Outside of championship races, it was also the first time 10 women have finished inside 1:29.
“This is wonderful,” said the 2017 world U18 champion. “I was making my debut (at 20km) and managed to win against a world-class field, I can’t believe it.
“I have been working very hard over the past months thinking of this event and all that hard work has paid off. My dream in athletics is to go to the Tokyo Olympics. Once there, I would like to win a medal for my country. I’d like to thank all my team and family, especially my coach, Giovan Delgado.”
The men’s competition kicked off at a frantic pace, well inside the 4:00 per kilometre. The first 5km was covered in 19:33 by a five-unit group comprising Japan’s world record-holder Yusuke Szuki, Spain’s European champion Álvaro Martín, Britain’s Tom Bosworth, Italy’s Massimo Stano and China’s Wang Kaihua, who was making the most of the early pace.
Some of the other big contenders – including Japan’s world leader Toshikazu Yamanishi, Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom and Spain’s Diego García – were in a chase pack but were also inside 1:19 schedule.
By the seventh kilometre, Suzuki moved to the front and began to increase the tempo even more. Only Wang, Stano and Martín could live with his pace. The quartet went through the half-way point in 38:44 while the European contingent of Karlstrom, Vasily Mizinov and Germany’s Cristopher Linke were a further 100 metres behind.
By 15km, reached in 58:07, Suzuki had opened up a gap on Yamanishi and the surprise Stano, holder of a career best of 1:20:51, while Martín and Wang began to lose ground and lost any chance of a podium spot.
Suzuki’s lead was short lived, though, as he was overtaken by Yamanishi with about 2.6 kilometres left. Yamanishi crossed the line in 1:17:41, while Stano – the bronze medallist at the 2018 IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships – overtook Suzuki to finish second in an Italian record of 1:17:45, taking three minutes off his previous best. Suzuki finished third in 1:17:54, his fastest time outside of Japan.
Karlstrom finished strongly to place fourth in 1:18:07, taking more than a minute off his own Swedish record. In sixth, Linke equalled the German record of 1:18:42, while Bonfim broke his own Brazilian record with 1:18:47 in seventh place.
As was the case with the women’s race, the men’s contest had fantastic depth. It was just the second time in history that eight men had finished inside 1:19 in a 20km race walk.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1 Toshikazu Yamanashi (JPN) 1:17:41
2 Massimo Stano (ITA) 1:17:45
3 Yusuke Suzuki (JPN) 1:17:54
4 Perseus Karlstrom (SWE) 1:18:07
5 Vasiliy Mizinov (ANA) 1:18:41
6 Christopher Linke (GER) 1:18:42
7 Caio Bonfim (BRA) 1:18:47
8 Diego García (ESP) 1:18:58
9 Eiki Takashashi (JPN) 1:19:13
10 José Alejandro Barrondo (GUA) 1:19:55
1 Glenda Morejon (ECU) 1:25:29
2 Yang Jiayu (CHN) 1:25:34
3 Liu Hong (CHN) 1:25:56
4 Qieyang Shenjie (CHN) 1:27:05
5 Erica de Sena (BRA) 1:27:38
6 Kumiko Okada (JAP) 1:27:41
7 Ma Zhenxia (CHN) 1:28:00
8 Duan Dandan (CHN) 1:28:28
9 Laura García Caro (ESP) 1:28:40
10 Wang Yingliu (CHN) 1:28:47