Ines Henriques in the 50km race walk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
Ines Henriques breezed home to become the first women’s world 50km race walk champion – and at the same time pocketed a handsome $160,000 for her win and world record* of 4:05:56.
The Portuguese took the plunge into the longer distance in February to set the initial mark of 4:08:26, but easily reset that by more than two minutes to take gold from China’s Yin Hang on a hot Sunday morning as the seven women rubbed shoulders with the men’s race that took place at the same time.
Rewind to May and the European Cup in Podebrady, and Henriques was in tears after being disqualified at 20 kilometres.
This time it was all beams and smiles as she took the finishing line, and after this win, there will surely be others making the switch up in distance as all four finishers earned excellent prize money. In the case of Yin and teammate Yang Shuqing, it was also silver and bronze in that order.
The only other race walker to make it to the end was Kathleen Burnett from the USA who set an area record, as well as claiming $15,000 for fourth and beating the time limit.
On their ground-breaking performance, the leading women started out at a decent lick with Henriques partnered by Yin at about 4:10:00 pace, with four others already more than a minute behind by eight kilometres.
Fate then dealt a savage blow on the race walker who did more than any other to get an equal footing with the men.
Erin Talcott-Taylor championed the cause for inclusion at the long event, but was a brought to a halt at 10 kilometres when the dreaded red disc of disqualification was brandished at her.
At the sharp end, the two leaders were a kilometre ahead of the rest ahead by halfway gained in 2:02:18 and on for a rewrite of the previous best mark.
Henriques looked the more comfortable as the toil told on the bobbing head of Yin, and a gap slowly but surely started to appear.
At 30 kilometres it was only four seconds, but over the next 20 minutes it extended beyond 40, and as a race, the Portuguese had it sewn up.
She eventually crossed the line a comfortable winner in 4:05:56 while Yin set an Asian record of 4:08:58 in second place. Yang took bronze with a PB of 4:20:49 while USA's Kate Burnett set a North American record of 4:21:51 in fourth.
The remainder was something of a procession, but spare a thought for Brazil’s Nair Da Rosa who missed the cut-off point deemed to be 4:17:00 going into the last two-kilometre loop and had to step off the road.
Next time, it’s almost certain seven women will be five times that number with the medals and prize money on offer.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures