Colombian race walker Eider Arevalo celebrates his victory (© AFP / Getty Images)
Colombia’s world champion Eider Arevalo and Wang Yingliu of China took the men’s and women’s individual victories at the Around Taihu International Race Walking competition, the last leg of the 2018 IAAF Race Walking Challenge, which concluded on Wednesday (26) after three days of action in Suzhou, China.
The 25-year-old Arevalo claimed the men’s title in a combined time of 2:58:09, edging South African runner-up Lebogang Shange by just three seconds. Isaac Palma of Mexico finished third in 2:59:08.
Shange, however, got the upper hand on Arevalo in the team battle. As the defending champions, the ‘Latin Power’ team comprising Shange, world bronze medallist Caio Bonfim, Ecuador’s Andres Chocho, and Perseus Karlstrom of Sweden retained the team title with a margin of 3:24 in 9:04:16. ‘Perritos’, a team spearheaded by Arevalo, finished second while China’s Team B finished third.
The three stages of the competition were conducted under a special pit lane system. Athletes were required to enter the pit lane for 30 seconds when receiving a second red card, one minute for the third one and one-and-a-half minutes for the fourth. If an athlete received a fifth red card, they were disqualified.
During Monday’s first stage race, held on a 20km course in the Taihu Lake holiday resort, Quentin Rew of New Zealand in the men’s race became the first athlete to receive a fifth red card.
A four-man leading group including Shange, Arevalo, Palma and two-time reigning champion Dane Bird-Smith of Australia paced the race to the 18km mark when the Australian received his second and third cards and had to stay in the pit lane for a total of one-and-a-half minutes.
Shange emerged victorious from the three-man battle and broke the tape in 1:23:20, three seconds ahead of Arevalo, who also served a 30-second pit lane penalty at about 12 kilometres. Palma finished third in 1:23:54.
‘Latin Power’ finished on top of the team standings after the first day with an advantage of 15 seconds.
Arevalo managed to offset the three-second deficit on the second stage, a 12km race held in the Taihu New Town, as he crossed the line with a 47:29 clocking. Shange finished second in 47:32, while Palma finished third again in 47:37.
Arevalo and Shange shared the first place in the individual standings after the second day, while ‘Latin Power’ extended their lead to 59 seconds.
The in-form Colombian continued his momentum on Wednesday. He held off a strong challenge from local star Wang Kaihua, the Asian Games 20km race walk champion, to win the 12km race in the ancient town of Mudu in 47:17. Wang trailed two seconds behind while Shange finished third in 47:20 and had to concede the overall victory to Arevalo.
Palma took fourth place in 47:37, which was enough to hold on to his third place in the overall table.
IAAF World Race Walking Challenge points for this competition were awarded according to the overall final ranking after the three stages.
Arevalo therefore bagged 12 challenge points in Suzhou, moving him up to second place in the overall 2018 standings, one point behind end-of-season leader Andres Chocho of Ecuador.
Chocho failed to finish the 20km stage in Suzhou before going on to complete the two other stages, but he had earned enough points from his performances from earlier in the year to hold on to pole position in the challenge standings.
Wang leads home team to victory
Wang Yingliu, who was a 20km personal best of 1:28:15 and is a two-time winner at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Taicang, took the women’s individual title in 3:13:17, thanks to her strong first-day performance.
The 26-year-old shrugged off a 30-second time penalty in the last kilometre to take the first day victory in 1:29:55. Li Maocuo, also from China, cut 45 seconds off her career best to finish second in 1:30:15. Lorena Arenas of Colombia finished third in 1:31:44.
Past winner and pre-competition favourite Qieyang Shijie finished fifth in 1:33:22 but fought back on the second stage.
The 2012 Olympic silver medallist clocked a winning mark of 50:49 on the second day, climbing up to the third place on the overall table, and went on to win the third day race in 50:40. But with a combined time of 3:14:31, the 27-year-old still lagged more than a minute behind Wang, who finished third in both of the last two stages.
Li, the seventh-place finisher in the 50km event at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Taicang 2018, took the overall bronze in 3:14:48.
Despite the last-minute withdrawal of world champion Yang Jiayu, China’s Team A – which included Wang, Qieyang, women’s 50km world record-holder Liang Rui, world U18 and U20 champion Ma Zhenxia as well as Wang Na as the replacement for Yang – dominated the team contest, notching the victory with a comfortable margin of more than 13 minutes in 9:46:15.
‘Victory’, a team comprising Ukrainian and Lithuanian athletes, took second place in 9:59:40. The team bronze went to China’s Team B with a clocking of 10:07:04.
Qieyang already had an insurmountable lead in the Race Walking Challenge before the competition in Suzhou. Wang, however, climbed up to fourth place in the end-of-season standings, while Arenas and Australia’s Claire Tallent did enough in Suzhou to make it into the top eight on the challenge leader board.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF
Individual (20km, 12km, 12km)
1 Eider Arevalo (COL) 2:58:09 (1:23:23, 47:29, 47:17)
2 Lebogang Shange (RSA) 2:58:12 (1:23:20, 47:32, 47:20)
3 Isaac Palma (MEX) 2:59:08 (1:23:54, 47:37, 47:37)
4 Wang Kaihua (CHN) 3:00:12 (1:25:11, 47:42, 47:19)
5 Perseus Karlstrom (SWE) 3:01:39 (1:25:50, 48:03, 47:46)
1 Latin Power (Bonfim, Chocho, Shange, Karlstrom) 9:04:16
2 Perritos (Arevalo, Dunfee, Snyman, Rew, Yerko) 9:07:40
3 China B (Bian, Chen, Sun, Yin, Zhang) 9:10:23
Individual (20km, 12km, 12km)
1 Wang Yingliu (CHN) 3:13:17 (1:29:55, 51:28, 51:54)
2 Qieyang Shijie (CHN) 3:14:31 (1:33:02, 50:49, 50:40)
3 Li Maocuo (CHN) 3:14:48 (1:30:15, 51:55, 52:38)
4 Lorena Arenas (COL) 3:17:12 (1:31:44, 53:03, 52:25)
5 Inna Kashyna (UKR) 3:17:41 (1:31:57, 52:35, 53:09)
1 China A (Liang, Ma, Qieyang, Wang, Wang) 9:46:15
2 Victory (Virbalyte, Kashyna, Borovska, Yudkina) 9:59:40
3 China B (Duan, Gesang, Li, Qiji, Su) 10:07:04