11 AUG 2012 Feature

Lashmanova - Extraordinary record for 'ordinary' girl

Gold medalist Elena Lashmanova of Russia attends the medal ceremony of the Women's 20km Walk in London on 11 August 2012 (Getty Images)Gold medalist Elena Lashmanova of Russia attends the medal ceremony of the Women's 20km Walk in London on 11 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
If there were gasps from the huge crowd in The Mall at the amazing World record in the women’s 20km Race Walk – there was an even bigger one from Elena Lashmanova.

The 20-year-old pulled out a superfast 8:07 for the last two kilometres and in doing so, passed Russian team-mate and defending champion Olga Kaniskina for first place.

The 2008 winner had a huge advantage only 4km earlier, and Lashmanova thought she might be chasing a minor place - if that.

"I had problems over the last few weeks of training," she said. "It was a little illness – nothing major, but it set me back a little, and I was not even expecting a medal today – never mind the gold or a World record."

Far from thinking she was gaining yard by yard over the last lap, Lashmanova was more worried she had picked up disqualification cards at the same time, bearing in mind the acceleration on the fastest circuit of the race.

But the former IAAF World Junior champion also had a psychological ace up her sleeve.

Back in May at the IAAF World Walking Cup on home soil in Saransk, she drew alongside Kaniskina in the final two kilometeres and passed her then as well.

Was this the incentive to go for broke on the biggest stage of them all? Apparently not, it seems.

"Every competition is different," said Lashmanova. "In May, I don’t think everyone was at their best, and I wasn’t sure Olga was as well prepared as she was today.

"I just found a little extra. But it was also in my mind to remain focused on my style. I knew I needed to make sure I didn’t pick up warnings."

But having swiped the crown off the queen’s head, a worried Lashmanova was not certain about the fame it would bring.

When Kaniskina brought home the big prize from 2008, she was given an apartment and a car, as well as being feted and paraded in front of Russian dignitaries that included President Vladimir Putin.

How did that sit with the latest heroine to do her country proud?

"What car would I like?" she said. "I can’t even think of that.

"I don’t care if I don’t get a car. For me, it’s all about the achievement, and all I would like to do is have a short holiday, and then decide what happens next."

One also got the impression that when she gets stared at in the street, or maybe even pestered for an autograph, Lashmanova was far from looking forward to the extras that come with an Olympic gold.

She was described as 'shy and quiet’ by the woman who had to settle for second place, "although maybe she’s different with her friends," added Kaniskina, "but maybe you should ask her."

Lashmanova also revealed a little reluctantly that she thought of herself as just 'ordinary’ – although how someone who has just walked a World record on a hot day could equate to a mere mortal might have more to do with modesty.

But she did admit her father, mother and elder brother would be delighted with the win.

Better make it a big car then when the prize finally shows up outside the front door?

"I told you, the car doesn’t matter, and yes, I really mean it," she said, wagging her finger in mock disapproval.

Paul Warburton for the IAAF