Sergey Bakulin, the fastest man in the world at 50km this year, held together over the final kilometres to take the gold medal in the World Championships men’s 50km road walk on Saturday morning.
Challenged at either end of the race by a pair of Australians – Osaka 2007 50km gold medallist Nathan Deakes led for 32km; Being 2008 Olympic silver medallist Jared Tallent cut into his lead late in the race – Bakulin remained alone. He clocked 3:41:25.
The winner’s final 5km split – 23:09 – was his slowest of the race, but once Tallent’s challenge petered out just past 45km, he had only to keep on going without major mishap to claim the gold.
Indeed, Tallent’s chase may well have cost him the silver, which he lost to Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov in the 49th kilometre of the race. They had gone through 35km together, Tallent led the Russian by 46 seconds at 45km, but he fell apart in the closing stages.
Nizhegorodov, who walked the race with a large compression bandage on his left thigh, made it 1-2 for Russia, taking the silver in 3:42:45. Tallent added a World Championships bronze to his Olympic silver, crossing the line in 3:43:36.
Russian domination therefore shows no sign of being broken at World Championships level. Olga Kaniskina won her third straight women’s 20km here (she also won at the Olympics), Valeriy Borchin his second men’s 20km (plus the Olympic 20km) and now Bakulin and Nizhegorodov took the top two medals in the 50km.
Do not look for change just yet, either. Bakulin, at 24, was one of the youngest competitors in the 50km walk here, so the Russians will remain the walkers to beat for a while yet.
Ironically, Bakulin walked an almost totally isolated race, even though he did not take the lead until the 32km point. Initially he chased Yohan Diniz and Deakes until the Frenchman was disqualified at 17km. Then he chased Deakes – trailing the Australian by 31 seconds at half-way. Finally, he led unchallenged from 32km to the line.
Deakes’ brave effort ended just after the 35km when he finally succumbed to a series of hamstring cramps which had caused him to stop several times after 30km. Fittingly, he stepped onto the 35km timing mat at 1:36:02, the same time as Tallent and Nizhegorodov, but the electronic timing system placed him first of the three at that point.
The Osaka 2007 50km champion has battled leg injuries ever since that triumph. When he completed the Australian 20km championships this year it was his first complete 20 or 50km since Osaka. He went on to qualify for Daegu in March and for over 30km it looked as if he had turned the clock back to his glory days.
In fourth place, Si Tainfeng gained Asia, and China’s, highest ever finish in a World Championships 50km. In seventh, Park Chil-sung gained Korea’s second top eight walks finish of the Championships and also set a national record.
Korea might have had an even better result. Yim Junghyun was disqualified when in fourth place around the half-way point.
Of the top 10, a record six were Asian. Koichiro Morioka of Japan was sixth, Xu Faguang of China eighth and two more Japanese, Takayuki Tanii and Hirooki Arai, rounded out the top 10.
Matej Toth, winner of the IAAF World Cup 50km in Chihuahua last year pulled out at half-way. The 1993 World champion and Berlin 2009 bronze medallist Jesus Angel Garcia was among the disqualifications.
Defending champion Sergey Kirdyapkin failed to finish, but Russia had plenty of depth this day.
Len Johnson for the IAAF