Elena Lashmanova celebrates winning the women's 20km in Saransk (Getty Images) © Copyright
The walker whose face adorns every poster in Saransk at the World Cup was left for dead at 16km, and at the same time gave rise to the idea that Olga Kaniskina is only a mere mortal.
The Olympic and IAAF World champion was expected to breeze this event in her hometown, instead the breeze she felt was Elena Lashmanova brushing past her and on her way to first.
The 20-year-old last month, had a first stab at losing her famous adversary a kilometre earlier only for Kaniskina to put up the fight of a true champion.
But when the winner went a second time that was that.
A small gap quickly became 100 metres, and by the end had grown to nearly a minute.
Lashmanova set a PB 1:26:30 in February at Sochi, and although she was never going to better that she looked the coolest on a course that took its toll right down the field.
Maybe the trick is to dump double bottles of water on your head because the new kid on the block missed no opportunity to take as much water in, on and around her as possible.
The hot conditions also favoured the bronze medallist Maria Jose Poves, who had the presence of mind to hold up three fingers as she raced up the finishing straight – just in case anyone wondered.
The Spaniard made her way cautiously through the field to light the afterburners at the end and claim a second individual medal for her country on the trot.
Maria Vasco won in Chihuahua. But this time the Cup veteran failed to finish. It was just as well that four others did including fifth-place Beatriz Pascual to make sure of team silver.
Behind her ChInese Xiuhi Liu kept Poves company in the second half of the race only to slip back to fourth even though her team claimed bronze, and in sixth behind Pascual, a tired Anisa Kirdyapkina helped Russia to an expected team gold.
From the start, Kumi Otoshi was the self-elected hare, and when she succumbed the in-form Claire Tallent had a go at shaking up the Russians.
The wife of the 50km bronze medallist, Jared, bettered her own PB by three minutes earlier in the year – and was alongside the earlier Russian trio waving and smiling, until her hopes turned to tears when she was disqualified at 13km.
When Kirdyapkina lost ground it gave Poves and Liu just the encouragement needed to chase down the Russian.
Up front, Lashmanova was biding her time and admitted she would be devastated to miss out on an Olympic place.
"I was nervous before the race and I had to work extra hard," she added. "With 2km to go I believed I could win.
"I wanted Olga (Kaniskina) to cross the finishing line with me – but she was a bit behind."
The second placer admitted she had suffered, although she was smiling again when her brother offered her flowers at the end.
Kaniskina added: "But today we showed we are ready for the Olympic Games."
Poves reckoned the psychological boost of a bronze will stand her in good stead in London as well.
"This medal was very important to me. It gives me the certainty I can compete with the best at the front of a race."
Paul Warburton for the IAAF
- Elena Lashmanova celebrates winning the women's 20km in Saransk (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Elena Lashmanova in action at the Saransk World Race Walking Cup (Getty Images) © Copyright
- The Start of the women's 20km race in Saransk (Getty Images) © Copyright
- The women's 20km podium: Elena Lashmanova, Olga Kaniskina and Maria José Poves (Getty Images) © Copyright