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Voyevodin dominates 50km walk and gives Russia team gold too

Voyevodin breaks the tape in Torino (Getty Images Mike Finn-Kelcey)Voyevodin breaks the tape in Torino (Getty Images Mike Finn-Kelcey) © Copyright

He was second in the European Championships but Aleksey Voyevodin saw the man who beat him, Robert Korzeniowski, only once this time.

The great Pole was not in his customary position at the front of a walking field but on the Turin roadside at 40k encouraging the Russian to the top of the podium.

Voyevodin was probably grateful Korzeniowski had decided to sit out the World Cup, but for all that the Russian showed immense courage and determination to walk alone for all but the first two laps.

“It was very hard to race 50k for the third time this year, but it’s a very good finish for the season.

“In Munich my second was a birthday present to myself. This time it’s for my wife whose birthday it will be in four days time and the $30,000 for his individual win topped up with a share of the team prize of $15,000 will be very gratefully received.

“I had no tactics for this race other than to walk 3:40:00 which I thought would win the race.”

His fast pace was metronomic and Russia were almost assured of the team title when the only walker to get close to the winner, German Skurygin came home a little over a minute later.

The cool morning was in stark contrast to the mini-heatwave endured by 20k walkers the day before, and maybe this was why Voyevodin took the lead from the gun.

The silver medallist in Munich was either supremely confident as he and Skurygin quickly opened up a 100 metre gap after just 2k. Many aficionados on the course reckoned the Russian had already pressed the self-destruct button.

However, the Russians stretched it for another lap and then Skurygin saw he had incurred a DQ card and either this or the manic pace saw him ease off.

Behind both a 15 strong group of potential winners were content to work as a body and watch events up front from a great distance or on one of the huge TV screens posted around the course, still filled with spectatots despite the early Sunday morning start.

Voyevodin arrived at 10k in 3:42:00 pace with Skurygin a further 150 metres behind and the chasers 50 metres behind that.

The first casualty of the day was Mexican hope German Sanchez, shown the red disc shortly after 10k. His country’s team hopes were all but dealt a mortal blow when his namesake Rogelio Sanchez met the same fate shortly after.

At 20k Russia looked favourites to repeat the feat of their teammates in the shorter race when they led the competition by 29 points. Voyevodin was exactly a minute ahead of Skurygin and a further 30 seconds up on the now diminishing set of chasers which included former World Cup and World Champion Jesus Angel Garcia.

10k later and there was practically no change except the group behind the front two had been whittled down to five.

At this point, Poland’s Tomasz Lipiec no doubt keen to following Korzeniowski’s footsteps decided to give chase. He upped the tempo to sub 9 minute laps for the 2k circuit, but the biggest gap he could forge was 9 seconds on Garcia but still nearly two minutes back on the long time leader. It made no difference on gold and silver but was good enough to land Lipiec bronze.

The home nation’s best chance of a medal, Ivano Brugnetti who won a surprise silver medal at Seville three years ago, called it a day at 38k just as the sun shone for the first time to increase the suffering of walkers now well into their third hour.

It might have done for some, but the first two reeled off the last six laps like it was little more than a Sunday stroll.