General view of the women's 20km - 2006 World Cup (Getty Images) © Copyright
As expected the athletes from host nation clinched the top spots through Koichiro Morioka and Mayumi Kawasaki in the men’s and women’s races respectively.
Morioka (22), the World University Games bronze medalist at Bangkok, was second at last year’s race at Neagari with a PB of 1:21:30. He walked 25 seconds slower on Sunday, but still managed to win the event to gain a ticket to Beijing.
China’s Zhang Ronglong (1:23:32) and Kazakhstan’s Rustam Kuvatov (1:24:01) have finished behind Morioka to achieve the “B” standard of 1:24:30. Ronglong was sixth at his national championships last year while the 30-year-old Kuvatov clocked a PB of 1:23:16 while finishing twelfth during the Kazakh national walking championships less than a month ago.
The women’s event saw four athletes came under “A” standard of 1:33:30. Mayumi Kawasaki successfully defended her Asian title, although her time was nearly three minutes slower than the national best of 1:28:56 she clocked at Neagari.
Yang Sha (22), fourth at the IAAF Race Walking challenge at La Coruna last year, came second in another slow pace 1:32:23. Another Japanese, Masumi Fuchise, took the third spot 14 seconds later. Both Sha (1:29:33) and Fuchise (1:29:36) achieved faster times earlier.
However the real surprise of the day arrived in the name of Yuan Yufang of Malaysia. Yufang, migrated from China twelve years ago, was a multiple medallist and had won the South East Asian Games four times in a row (2001-03-05-07).
Last October she said to have walked 1:37:21 at Kunming, China. However that race was not sanctioned as an Olympic qualifying competition by the IAAF. Thus, Yufang attempted to improve her personal best and national mark of 1:32:25 set during the Asian championships at Manila, five years ago. She was 23 seconds short of her career best, yet made the Beijing grade in her fourth place finish. She now joins pole vaulter Roslinda Samsu to represent her adopted nation at the Chinese capital.
Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF