Sergey Kirdyapkin crosses the line in London (Getty Images ) © Copyright
London 2012 - Event Report - Men's 50km Race Walk
Kirdyapkin the man to be beaten having won the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Saransk in May, shattered the existing record of 3:37:09 with a decisive victory.
That also represented a personal best for the 32-year-old Russian massively improving upon the 3:38:08 he first posted seven years ago when winning the first of his two World Championships titles in Helsinki which he equalled with his success in Saransk three months ago.
"I came here to win the gold medal, breaking the Olympic record just happened," said Kirdyapkin who admitted he and his colleagues Igor Yerokhin and Sergey Bakulin intended competing as a team on what was a hot morning with the opening temperature at 18 degrees going increasingly higher.
"The race was heavy, it's difficult to analyse right at this moment," he added. "We prepared for the cold weather so we had to adjust. It all went to plan."
Kirdyapkin revealed: "Around the 25-30km mark I hit the wall. I had to fight with myself but I found my second wind. If I didn't have that small problem I would have done a better time."
Behind him Jared Tallent with a remarkable recovery particularly in the last six kilometres claimed the silver medal for a second successive Games and also did it stylishly lowering his PB from 3:38:56 to 3:36:53 when it looked as if he might miss out on a podium finish.
"I beat my personal best by two minutes, so it's good," said the 27-year-old Australian. "I told myself to keep calm and not to push it early."
Tallent third at last year's Worlds' and an Olympic 20km bronze medallist in Beijing, added: "I learned a lesson in Daegu and just held back in the early stages and stayed comfortable.
"I tried to stay focused throughout and bring it (the gold medal) home. The Olympic Games is pretty special for me. To get my third Olympic medal is pretty special. Kirdyapkin really showed his class today."
He added: "The plan was really to attack that last 10K. I don't think I could have done much more."
Then came China's Tianfeng Si whose injection of pace after 35km initially sorted the men out from the boys until Russian teamwork and Tallent's late charge saw him relegated to third but winning China's first ever medal in the event with a time of 3:37:16.
"I took up this sport at the age of 14," said Tianfeng Si, the 2010 Asian Games champion who also set a PB. "It has never been easy. I have always been challenging myself. I kept improving. I am so proud of myself - no pain, no gain. I did it."
The race didn't really come to life despite a couple of surges from last year's World champion Sergey Bakulin who after taking on the workload alongside Kirdyapkin until Si moved from eigthth to the point before 35km, fell back to finish in eighth position.
A couple of surges from the Russian didn't really do any damage, indeed there was no real action until Tianfeng Si, 22 seconds off the pace and lying eighth at 30km, raised his game and in the next five kilometres caught the leaders opening a gap six seconds from Bakulin who held a two second margin ahead from the chasing pack.
That injection in pace from the Chinese saw him pull even further clear but the Russian trio of Kirdyapkin who had been lying 21sec behind at that point, Bakulin and Igor Yerokhin runner up in the WRWC, regrouped themselves together at about 38.5km and tracked the leader down.
Their synchronised teamwork paid dividends as 20 metres before the 40km Kirdyapkin flew past Tianfeng Si, quickly followed by his colleagues making the likelihood of a Russian and first ever clean sweep a possibility.
But Tallent had other ideas and putting them into practice really picked himself up and his increase in pace took him to second place just 26sec in arrears of Kirdyapkin who had established his dominance of the event after earlier looking shaky and went through 45km in 3:15:07 with third placed Li only a second adrift of the Aussie.
The last five kilometres saw Kirdyapkin gritting his teeth in fierce determination and pulling further ahead while Tallence kept up his relentless pressure to assure himself of second with Tianfeng Si after two fourth places at the last two World Championships, finally getting a fully deserved global medal.
Fast finishing Robert Heffernan was awarded fourth position when sharing the same time, an Irish record, of 3:37:54 with Yerokhin who produced the quickest time of his career. Then came Bakulin in a season's best of 3:38:55.
Dave Martin for the IAAF
- Sergey Kirdyapkin crosses the line in London (Getty Images ) © Copyright