Lille, France17year-old Kate Veale walked to a new World Youth leading performance of 21:45.59 to claim the IAAF World Youth 5000m race walking title here in Lille.
A disappointing fourth at the inaugural World Youth Olympic Games in Singapore last year, the Irishwoman was determined not to miss out on a podium finish this time around.
With exactly 7 laps to go Veale moved to the front and took the lead from Peru’s Yuli Capcha, the early leader taking the group through the first (4:38.61) and second (8:59.36) kilometres before failing to reach the finish line.
Behind Veale, Italy’s Anna Clemente, the World Youth Olympic champion, and Russia’s Olga Nacharkina looked strong but that was before Veale upped the tempo a further notch. Six laps to go and Veale was still solidly in the lead with Ukraine’s Alina Galchenko and the second Russian in this final Nadezhda Leontyeva making their first appearance at the front.
Veale was timed in 13:12.74 at 3km and with now just 5 laps to go increased her lead dramatically to a good 20 metres on Galchenko and Leontyeva another 10 metres down. Trailing behind the trio of China’s Yanxue Mao, Mexico’s Alejandra Ortega and a not-so-fresh Clemente lagged a further 5 metres behind.
Veale’s rhythm was a class above the rest’s – she led by 40 metres with 4 laps to go, 60 metres with 3 laps to go, 70 metres at the bell… The focus had now fallen on a small group of 5 pursuers who briefly rejoined with 1500 metres to go. Galchenko, Leontyeva, Nacharkina, Ortega and Mao…five women for just two medals…
Nacharkina was the first one to fall back probably paying for her early race efforts and with now just 800 metres to go Ortega also found herself trailing off the chasing pack.
As Veale cruised seemingly effortlessly to clinch her country’s first gold medal in the history of this competition, the bell rang with Leontyeva and Galchenko neck and neck and Mao, who won the World Youth Olympic silver medal last year in Singapore, just a couple of steps behind. The Chinese seemed to have the strongest change of speed and with 200 metres to go passed both Eastern Europeans, Leontyeva responded; Galchenko’s legs couldn’t.
Eventually, Mao held on for her second silver in two years in 22:00.15, a new personal best with Leontyeva a satisfied bronze medallist with another personal best time 22:00.84. Galchenko was visibly suffering on the homestretch her last few steps being more of a stumble through the line; she would be rewarded with a new personal best 22:12.47. More personal bests were recorded for Ortega in fifth (22:17.85), fast finishing Anezka Drahotova of the Czech Republic in sixth (22:32.87) and China’s Yuanyuan Ni in seventh (22:36.62).
“It feels really nice to be the World champion,” Veale said after her wonderful performance. “I can’t really realize it. I felt strong during the whole race but until the last lap I wasn’t sure I could be first. I know the Chinese has a good finish and I didn’t know where they were behind me.
“My family was here to support me, they were louder than the Chinese and Russian fans.”
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF