The home country’s dominance of the 23rd World Walking Cup came full circle when Olga Kaniskina reigned supreme in the women’s 20k from start to finish.
The only downturn for the World champion in Osaka was the single second that denied her country of their third World record of the weekend.
Kaniskina strained for the line, no doubt aware that anything under 1:25:41 would net her an extra $50,000 to go with the first prize of $30,000, but heartbreakingly stopped the clock just a heartbeat beyond the magical time.
But, if she needs any consolation, it must surely be that on this form she needs to work at only two-thirds of the effort she put in here when it comes to the Olympics, and a hat-trick of global titles in under 12 months will surely be hers.
From the gun, four Russian walkers were out to prove what statistics already showed – they were the fastest in the field, and if all things remained equal, they would claim the top spots with some ease.
But what often adds to the sport of Race Walking is the unknown factor of judges’ decisions.
One of the four, Anisa Kirdyapkina, was shown the dreaded red disc after 10k, and World silver medallist Tatyana Shemyakina called it a day after dropping away from the leaders before 5km.
It left just three Russians in the race, with the only one on the home nation team not to go with the early charge battling for the bronze medal after the turnabout in events.
Lyudmila Arkhipova was chasing Vera Santos, who had come out of the group to take up third spot.
However, the Portuguese was having the race of her life, and living up to team-mate Susana Feitor’s prediction at the IAAF Press Conference on Friday (9) that her countrywomen would be there or thereabouts when it came to the team medals.
At the sharp end there was suddenly danger that Russia’s team hopes were about to evaporate like the mist on the ornamental fountains surrounding the course.
Up to that point, Tatyana Sibileva had stuck to Kaniskina like glue, but with two red cards to her name just after 12k, she either wisely dropped off the pace or was unable to compete with the relentless speed of the leader.
Either way the gap came to Russia’s aid, and silver was as guaranteed as Kaniskina’s gold.
But it needed a last lap sprint for Santos to power home ahead of Arkhipova, with the Portuguese head bowed into a slight wind determined to hang on to her first major medal.
Spaniard Maria Vasco is an old hand at coming from behind, and the World champion bronze medallist showed her pace judgment on a day where the temperatures rose to 22 celsius to claim fifth.
Olive Loughnane had used up eight of her nine lives on the DQ board, but like Sibileva, the Irishwoman rewrote her own PB to dip under 90:00 for the first time with 1:29:17.
There’s also no denying Jane Saville when it comes to major medal walks.
The Australian Olympic bronze medalist may be 33, but she gutted out a last tough 5k to come home in seventh.
In the team race Sibileva’s survival saw Russia claim every single team gold in the five races at the weekend to make the country’s national anthem a very familiar tune over the two days of competition.
But it was also refreshing to see Portugal on the podium.
Feitor was telling the truth when she saw her team ready to medal, and the colour was silver thanks to three sub-90:00 performances from Santos, Feitor herself and newcomer Ana Cabechina in 89:39.
Neighbours Spain, ever-perennial medalists, took the cue from Vasco’s performance to win bronze.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF