Kimberly Garcia on her way to winning the 35km race walk in Dudince (© Pavol Uhrin)
Double world champion Kimberly Garcia got her 2023 campaign off to a superb start on Saturday (25), breaking the 35km race walk world record with 2:37:44* at the Dudinska 50, the first World Athletics Race Walking Tour Gold meeting of the year.
The Peruvian race walker produced a solo effort from the early stages, passing through the first kilometre as part of a small lead group and then breaking away just a couple of minutes later. By the time she reached 5km in 22:41, she had a 16-second lead over Chinese duo Liu Hong and Ma Li.
Garcia’s lead grew to more than a minute by 15km, which she passed in 1:07:29 with four-time world champion Liu still level with compatriot Ma. World silver medallist Katarzyna Zdzieblo was a further minute behind in fourth.
Ma started to lose contact with Liu at about 18km, but Garcia continued churning out her metronomic splits, reaching 20km in 1:29:58. With 10km to go, Garcia’s lead over Liu had grown to 84 seconds. Wu Quanming, meanwhile, was starting to close on Chinese teammate Ma.
Garcia reached 30km in 2:15:10, almost two minutes clear of Liu, who was safe in second place. Wu had moved into third by this stage, but Ecuador’s Magaly Bonilla was closing fast.
There was no catching Garcia, though, who maintained her relentless pace to charge through the finish line in 2:37:44, taking two seconds off the previous fastest mark for the distance.
Liu, who was making her debut at the distance, followed more than two minutes later in 2:40:06 but was rewarded with an Asian record. Bonilla was third in an Ecuadorian record of 2:46:32 and a fading Wu held on for fourth (2:47:34).
"I knew I was in good shape and that I could challenge the world record," said Garcia. "The first 20km was ok and at a good pace, then I started to tire and the wind got stronger. Thankfully I found some extra energy for the final five kilometres.
"It's a big thing for me to achieve this record," added Garcia, who also confirmed she will defend both of her titles at this year's World Championships. "I still think I can go faster, maybe at the World Championships. I'm not planning any more 35km races before Budapest."
Doctor remedies last year’s runner-up finish
One year after finishing second over 35km in Dudince, Mexico’s Jose Doctor triumphed in a national and meeting record of 2:26:37.
He trailed Olympic bronze medallist Evan Dunfee and Ecuador’s Brian Pintado during the early stages, as Dunfee led through 10km (41:25). They moved together as a trio up until 17km, reached in 1:10:14, but Dunfee then started to slip behind. By 20km, which Pintado and Doctor reached in 1:22:31, an 11-second gap had emerged to Dunfee.
Pintado tried to make a break after 22km, but Doctor reeled him back in just over a kilometre later. Brazil’s Caio Bonfim, meanwhile, was also moving through the pack. Doctor reached 25km in 1:43:21 with an 18-second lead over Bonfim, who was now in second, 24 seconds clear of Pintado.
Pintado continued to slip behind and eventually withdrew after 27km. Doctor, however, remained a safe distance ahead of Bonfim, while China’s Cui Lihong was making up ground on Dunfee.
Doctor extended his lead in the final kilometres and crossed the line a confortable winner in 2:26:37. Bonfim was second in 2:27:30. Lihong moved into third place with just over a kilometre left, finishing 15 seconds ahead of the Canadian in 2:29:00.
In the closest finish of the day, 2017 world champion Eider Arevalo of Colombia won the men’s 20km in 1:19:23 with double world bronze medallist Perseus Karlstrom finishing 21 seconds behind.
India’s Sandeep Kumar led during the early stages, going through 5km in 19:38 with a five-second lead over Karlstrom. The Swede drew level with Kumar a few kilometres later and the duo went through 10km in 39:33, 17 seconds ahead of Arevalo and Mexico’s Noel Chama.
Kumar was given a third red card and had to sit out a one-minute penalty, essentially taking him out of contention. It left Karlstrom alone in the lead between 12km and 17km when Arevalo finally caught up with him.
They rallied for the best part of a lap before Arevalo finally broke free thanks to a 3:50 final kilometre, winning in 1:19:23. Karlstrom was second in 1:19:44 and Chama was third in 1:20:46.
Elsewhere, Mexico’s Alegna Gonzalez won the women’s 20km race in 1:28:09, winning by more than two minutes from Puerto Rico’s Rachelle de Orbeta.
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure