Maria Vasco of Spain on her way to winning the women's 20km World Race Walking Cup in Chihuahua (Getty Images) © Copyright

Experience pays off for Vasco - Women's 20km Race report

Age proved no barrier to Maria Vasco when the 34-year-old Spaniard defied the early evening heat and a dogged opponent to break the tape in the women's IAAF World Walking Cup 20km.

Only the great Yelena Nikolayeva had more years on her birth certificate when she won the 2004 edition - but the Russian did so in much kinder conditions.

First gold after three bronze medals

Vasco knows all about medals - she has a trio of bronzes from the Olympics, IAAF World Championships and World Cup - but all good things come to those that wait, and Vasco produced a negative second-half split to make good her prediction of a winning time between 1:31:00 and 1:32:00.

But to make her first visit to the top of the podium, the native from Barcelona had to come back from a final 2km sprint that had everyone around the course predicting a jump from third in 2008 to first for Vera Santos.

The Portuguese led from the start and gave it everything, only to run out of gas over the last 500 yards when Vasco used all her experience to hang on to her lead.
Santos looked as if she was just itching to show the rest a proverbial clean pair of heels when she glanced left and right just a few seconds into the race.

The Portuguese need not have worried.

Had it been a cycle race, the first 25 would all have been given the same time as they completed the first 2km lap in a dawdling 9:36.

The next time around daylight began to appear, although it was closer to blinding even though well past 6pm.

Santos kick not good enough for win 

Santos was joined by two Russians, two Spaniards that included Vasco, and Portuguese team-mate Ines Henriques.

However, shortly after 5km (23:29) with Santos and Anisya Kirdyapkina walking together, Russian hopes were dented when Tatiana Sibileva, third on the year’s fastest times, was disqualified.

The gaps were even bigger by lap four with the race already down to three after former double junior champion Vera Sokolova joined Vasco and Santos at the front.

Henriques was desperately trying to stay in touch, but despite leading the 2010 rankings, Kirdyapkina was already falling off the back.

There was little change for the next two trips around the u-shaped course, but at the 13km mark it was unlucky for Sokolova when Santos and Vasco moved up half a gear to put a vital 10 yards between themselves and the Russian.

By 16km, Sokolova had been caught by the speeding Henriques, whose face betrayed the strain although her legs were working as well as anyone’s in the race.

Maybe it was osmosis or something, because Santos, 200 metres down the road, also picked up the pace to put five yards on Vasco at the same time as her Portuguese team-mate was cementing third.

But the Spaniard refused to be dropped and was practically treading on Santos’s heels by the bell.

Behind, it was lone walking for Henriques, Sokolova and Kirdyapkina in that order, with a trio of Chinese Yanfei Li, Mayumi Kawasaki from Japan and Ana Cabecinha making up the top eight.

The third Portuguese proved to be vital as it allowed her country to get its first team gold medal with Spain second, and China third.

Paul Warburton for the IAAF