31 August 2011Daegu, Korea - Olga Kaniskina who celebrated being the first woman to win back-to-back victories in Berlin two years ago lifted the IAAF World Championships 20 Kilometres Walk title for a third time with a runaway victory on the streets of Daegu.
Kaniskina taking charge of the race held in very cool conditions won by 18 seconds ahead of China's Liu Hong in a time of 1:29:42 with her fellow Russian Anisya Kirdyapkina taking third place in 1:30:13.
The 26-year-old's aggressive display saw her break clear on her own after 14km and although having raced sparingly this year with only two races under her belt showed no rustiness. Indeed her outstanding class was emphasised with the win overtaking the two successes scored by her fellow Russian and Championship record holder Olimpiada Ivanova in 2001 and 2005.
While Kaniskina and Kirdyapkina lived up to their pre-race billings as favourites, the chances of the first ever clean sweep of the podium places crashed when team-mate Vera Sokolova who posted the current World record of 1:25:08 in Sochi in February this year faded after an hour when in the leading pack of four and drifted back to place 11th.
But it was still a day of celebration for the world's premier walking nation as from the start of the event the three faces of Kaniskina, Kirdyapkina and Sokolova until her demise were never out of vision in the leading pack.
The early pacemaker was Germany's 34-year-old Melanie Seeger who finished fifth at the 2004 Olympic Games but there was nothing decisive about her leadership at the point with the field remaining tightly packed. Indeed at 5km where Kaniskina led through in 23:29 there were still 26 other contenders within two seconds of that mark.
But the pace did increase with the three Russians largely responsible while just after seven kilometres the body of Liu, bronze medallist in Berlin, also came into contention as it was forced along although still tightly packed.
After a second 5km split of 23:29 with Kaniskina going across the Seiko 10km timing mat in 46:16, the leading group had been reduced to 13 with Seeger and Portugal's medal hopeful Susana Feitor who had also figured at the front earlier, six seconds in arrears.
The Russian squad, Liu and Japan's two time Asian champion Masumi Fuchise then began to get away and enjoying the refreshment of running under a portable shower at 11km it was definitely noticeable they were moving extremely quicker.
Kirdyapkina was responsible for what ultimately decided the medal places when hitting the front 55 minutes into the race. Fuchise became a casualty - she did not finish - followed by the surprise demise of Sokolova whilst Liu in third position fortunately having a cushion ahead of her also faded seven minutes later.
Kaniskina took over the pace from Kirdyapkina who finished fourth in Berlin and just after 14km she sealed her latest victory when storming away on her own and quickly establishing a lengthy vacuum from her colleague.
With a third and superfast split of 21:44 she held a five seconds advantage at 15km (1:08:03) from Kirdyapkina who herself was four seconds clear of Liu with Sokolova's decline reflected in her time of 1:08:29.
Kaniskina maintained her momentum and there were no signs of distress from her as she completed the last 5km. But Kirdyapkina sweat rolling off her face was struggling and just before 18km, Liu with a second wind went ahead of her to medal for a second time.
Olympic bronze medallist Elisa Rigaudo who beat Liu across the line in Beijing took fourth in a season's best 1:30:44 followed by Qieyang Shenjie of China who clocked 1:31:14 and the evergreen Susan Feitor.
The 36-year-old Portuguese veteran and 2005 bronze medallist competing in her 11th Championships which is the most achieved by any athlete in any discipline, recorded a mark of 1:31:25.
David Martin for the IAAF