Duan Dandan and Yang Jiayu started the day off in magnificent fashion for the host nation of the 2014 IAAF World Race Walking Cup as the Chinese pair took gold and silver in the junior women’s 10km on Sunday (4).
Duan clocked a 2014 junior world-leading time of 43:05, after briefly looking like she might get close to the world junior record of 41:57 held by her compatriot Gao Hongmiao since 1993, while Yang followed her home 32 seconds later.
Both women, obviously spurred on by a cheering home crowd in Taicang, clocked substantial personal bests.
The pair combined to give China a perfect score in the team competition and take the gold medals with just three points, regaining the title they won four years ago in the Mexican city of Chihuahua.
However, the sharp end of the early stages of the race had a very European flavour.
Czech Republic’s Anezka Drahotova and Russia’s Oxana Golyatkina, the gold and silver medallists respectively from the 2013 European Junior Championships 10,000m race walk, immediately tore away from the field from the gun and went through 2km in 8:57.
Duan and Yang were working together and six seconds in arrears, and then there was a long gap back to Belarus’ Viktoriya Rashchupkina. The leading pair’s fast start had quickly splintered the entire field with the teenage walkers scattered around the course along the East Shanghai Road.
The leading pair continued their battle for supremacy on the second lap, going shoulder-to-shoulder through 4km in 17:27 with Duan and Yang now eight seconds back.
Duan makes her move
However, after the second lap, Duan started to chase down her European rivals and got back on level terms with Drahotova and Golyatkina as they went through 6km in 26:02, the slight drop in speed on the third lap also perhaps helping let the local girl come up to join the leaders.
Off the second turn on the penultimate lap, Duan then pushed hard to open up a gap over Drahotova while Golyatkina had to step to the side of the road following her third red card, leaving the course in tears.
Duan passed 8km in 34:38 with the Czech walker now six seconds in arrears. As Drahotova started to tire, Yang started to motor behind her in a bid to make it a Chinese one-two and succeeded in moving up to the silver medal early on the lap.
However, there was too big a gap for her to challenge her team-mate despite Duan easing off slightly over the final kilometre, assured of the gold medal.
Drahotova hung on to take the bronze medal and was rewarded with a national junior record of 43:40.
Emphasising the gulf between the medallists and the rest of the field, Spain’s Laura Garcia-Caro finished fourth in a personal best of 45:29, almost two minutes behind the bronze medallist.
However, Garcia-Caro did get the chance to climb the podium as Spain took the team silver medals with 13 points and Australia took third place with 20 points.
Slightly surprisingly, but obviously damaged by Golyatkina’s disqualification, Russia finished out of the junior women's medals for the first time ever, having won the team title four times in the previous five editions of this race. On this occasion they had to settle for sixth place.
Nine of the top 10 women home set personal bests on the famously quick course, with light rain helping the fast times, although there was a slight quartering breeze.
Among those women going into new territory was Tunisia’s Chahinez Nasri in 10th place, who set an African junior record of 46:43.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF