Report13 Aug 2017

Report: men's 20km race walk – IAAF World Championships London 2017


Eider Arevalo of Colombia wins the 20km race walk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)

All good things come to those who work and wait as Eider Arevalo discovered in the 20km race walk.

On the last lap, the gold medallist took one last look at Buckingham Palace on The Mall before deciding who was going to wear the crown. 

A last-lap sprint saw the Colombian crevice a gap to neutral Sergei Shirobokov, and when Arevalo thought himself clear, celebrated with his national flag passed to him by a fan, albeit keeping one eye on the athlete finishing just two seconds back.

Arevalo came to prominence as the U20 winner of the IAAF World Walking Cup in 2010, and followed it up with a global junior crown two years later in Barcelona.

There has been plenty of continental success since then for the 24-year-old, but seventh in Beijing two years ago was the best mustered at a senior level until now.

His 1:18:53 finish in London was remarkable not just for the national record that came with it, but in heat that seemed a lot more intense than the listed 22C.

Behind the pair, Brazil’s Ciao Bonfim rallied to deny Lebogang Shange a brave bronze.

Bonfim halved his sixth place finish from 2015, but cut in two in a different way was the poor South African right behind.

He came like a train to move up from 20th at halfway and 23 seconds in arrears, and then went through the field like a dose of salts to take the lead briefly before settling back for a final duel with Shirobokov and Arevalo.

As it turned out, the move was a gear too many for Shange, and when the leading pair turned up the heat, Shange’s face suggested he was struggling.

Bonfim came back past him, but at least Shange rewrote his own national record to 1:19:18 – 48 seconds better, and 40 places better than a disappointing Olympics last year.

Someone who harboured hopes of a medal was Germany’s Christopher Linke.

But after a sizzling year where he won twice in the Czech Republic, the German suffered in the heat for fifth, and this time it was disappointment also for Dane Bird-Smith whose breakthrough bronze at the 2016 Olympics was still slower than his 1:19:28 personal best here for sixth.

But if the Australian was left with a case of ‘what if?’, consider the plight of home favourite Tom Bosworth.

Just like he did in Brazil at the Olympics last year, the Briton went to the front only this time in front of his own supporters – and there were many lining the course.

He reached five kilometres in 19:54, but that's comfortable in this class of field and there was little danger of shedding anyone from a group of 30-plus in the early stages. 

On a different stage at a different time, maybe Bosworth would have buried himself in the pack rather than putting himself out there for judges to take an even harder look at him. It was a risk that backfired.

For the first time in his senior career, the 27-year-old incurred a painful red card that left him distraught.

The word 'shattered' barely did justice as Bosworth sobbed uncontrollably while slumped on a fence before being led back down the course head in hands and away from a thousand photo lenses capturing his misery.

Bosworth reached 10 kilometres in 39:48 for halfway along with 10 others, but with the man from Kent removed, a large group quickly became a small one as the pace ramped up.

Arevalo, Shirobokov, Japan’s Isamu Fujisawa, Linke, Bird-Smith, China’s Wang Kaihua, and Spain’s Álvaro Martín forged ahead.

But then the race really took off with Arevalo defying the list of favourites to win a first gold for Colombia at these championships to go with Caterine Ibarguen’s silver medal in the women’s triple jump.

There were actually five medal ceremonies on The Mall to complete a great day in the heart of London.

Right at the end, the 2009 World Championship 20km race walk medals were reallocated to China’s Wang Hao in first, Eder Sánchez from Mexico, second, and Italy’s Giorgio Rubino, who made it to the podium eight years after the race in which Russia’s Valeriy Borchin was stripped of the title.

Paul Warburton for the IAAF

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