Japanese race walker Yusuke Suzuki at the IAAF World Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Beijing, China

Preview: men’s 20km race walk – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

Race walking might be one of the host continent’s strongest areas in athletics, but no Asian man has ever won the gold medal in the 20km race walk at the IAAF World Championships.

That could all end in Beijing, though, as the seven fastest entrants all hail from Asia.

The favourite is Japan’s Yusuke Suzuki. The 27-year-old has been in incredible form this year, smashing the world record with 1:16:36 at the Asian Championships back in March. More recently, he broke the Asian records for the 5000m and 10,000m events within the space of four days in July, so has clearly lost none of his spectacular shape approaching Beijing.

Suzuke won medals at the world youth and world junior level, but is yet to make it on to a podium at a senior global championship. The conditions in Beijing will also come into play, although Suzuki still has an 84-second advantage over the rest of the field this year.

Team-mate Eiki Takahashi is the only man to beat Suzuki in 2015. At the start of the year, Takahashi finished 10 seconds ahead of Suzuki at the Japanese Championships, clocking 1:18:03 – a mark which, at the time, was a national record. Beijing will be his first global championships, though.

The third Japanese entrant, Isamu Fujisawa, has also been in PB form this year, clocking 1:19:08 in March, so he will want to finish higher than the 18th place he achieved at the 2012 Olympics.

China took silver medals in 2009 and 2013, the latter through Chen Ding. The Olympic champion is back on the national team and represents one of the host nation’s best medal chances. He only finished third at China’s World Trials, but has improved with each of his races since then, winning in Taicang and then finishing second in La Coruna in a season’s best of 1:18:44.

Compatriot Wang Zhen was the winner in La Coruna; in fact he is undefeated since May 2014. The Asian record-holder will also want to make amends for his last global championships appearance. In 2012 he was the fastest athlete lining up for the 20km race walk and had won the World Race Walking Cup earlier that year, but he finished third at the Olympics in London.

But the rest of the world will want to ensure that it won’t be an all-Asian affair.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Lopez took bronze in Moscow two years ago and then won the European title in 2014. He is the fastest European this year, having twice clocked 1:19:52, and is a good championships performer.

Australia’s World University Games champion Dane Bird-Smith finished behind China’s top trio and Angel Lopez in La Coruna earlier this year, improving his PB to 1:20:05. He finished just outside the top 10 in Moscow two years ago, but is now almost two minutes faster than he was back then.

In what is always a difficult-to-predict event, others who could get among the medals include Olympic silver medallist Erick Barrondo, Pan American champion Evan Dunfee of Canada and World Race Walking Cup winner Ruslan Dmytrenko.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF