Sandra Arenas of Colombia wins the junior race in Saransk (Getty Images) © Copyright
From 5km the medals were clearly going to be decided by four walkers – the question was which four?
The odds were firmly stacked in favour of Nadezhda Leontyeva and Ekaterina Medvedeva prevailing for the host country.
After all, Russia had won three out of the four events since the start of the junior race for women in 2004.
The red-vested pair also had the fastest times of the year, but probably in Spanish, Sandra Arenas was thinking, so what?
The Colombian had just watched compatriot Eider Arevalo win the men’s 10km, and inspired by one win for her country, was determined to make it two.
Not that anyone among the 30,000 or so around the course would have thought it around 6km.
The white-capped Arenas was throwing her head back in a desperate attempt to get air in her lungs as first Leontyeva and then Mexican Alejandra Ortega made a bid for glory.
Medvedeva was a heartbeat away and the two Russians quickly moved into the lead. One kilometre later and the gap had grown to 20 metres on Ortega, with Arenas seemingly out of it.
But from the depths of somewhere Arenas rallied at 8km, and not only drew level with Ortega but quickly caught up with the Russians.
Medvedeva was the first to crack, and then as Ortega drifted off the back for the second time, Arenas shot past Leontyeva to open up a gap on the startled Russian.
Had there been another twist in events, no-one would have been surprised. But even though the winner glanced over her shoulder repeatedly over the last kilometre, she had the title in the bag.
Earlier on, Australian Claire Tallent and Irish Kate Veale took their turn at the front before succumbing to the increased pace and the conditions.
Then at 6km, it was down to the real business of the day, with Arenas a joyful surprise to both herself and her country.
Afterwards, the 18-year-old victor admitted the telling moment had been when she got her second win with two kilometres left.
She said: "I thought I could win, but decided not to go so fast in the middle part.
"When I realised the others were slowing down – I was sure I could go to the front."
Her team finished fifth. But taking bronze was Ukraine with 15 points. And the only reason they didn’t get silver was because their third walker was behind the last Chinese who took team silver.
The disappointed Leontyeva and Medvedeva at least had the consolation of Russian team gold – although both looked very sombre and subdued at the medal ceremony.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF