Jared Tallent in the 20km race walk at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview London, UK

Preview: men's 50km race walk – IAAF World Championships London 2017

Mental strength is everything in the men’s IAAF World Championships 50km race walk. That, and a lot of background in the event.

You don’t get to race walk almost four hours at about seven minutes a mile without both, and such is the demand on legs and other limbs, a fair few in the leading group will race walk just the one long event in 2017. 

Jared Tallent knows what it is like to win on The Mall. 

The Australian has already done it, albeit belatedly once he got his 2012 Olympic gold medal four years later when Russian winner on the day Sergey Kirdyapkin was stripped of the title.

Now 32, Tallent shows no signs of letting up on a glittering 10-medal haul at the long distance that include three World Championships medals in a row – but as yet, no gold.

Why not complete the set in London where he set his personal best 3:36:53 five years ago? 

Among those out to stop him is the mercurial Yohann Diniz. You never quite know what you’re going to get from the French world record-holder, who inevitably sets a frightening pace, and either triumphs while recording the landmark 3:32:33 winning the European Championships in 2014 for example, or ends up on the roadside disqualified or disheartened.

In Rio last year, Diniz was spreadeagled on the tarmac after collapsing, having led by nearly two minutes at one point, only to somehow stagger to his feet and complete the Olympic 50km in 3:46:43 for a creditable eighth.

This could be the last chance of a World Championships medal for the man who turns 40 on the first day of 2018. But one thing is guaranteed: for Diniz it will be either bust or boom.

In the absence of current world champion Matej Toth, other pretenders to the throne include Håvard Haukenes who set a world lead 3:43:40 in Dudince in May.

Provided the Norwegian judges the pace, form may favour the 27-year-old.

Ecuador’s Andrés Chocho is knocking on the door of a major gong – 3:47:37 at the Monterrey leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in March underlines why.

However, first in the same race was Evan Dunfee in 3:46:03. 

Canada, through Ben Thorne, won a championship medal in Beijing two years ago, and his teammate looked on course for an Olympic bronze last year before a dramatic last couple of minutes saw he and Japan’s Hirooki Arai bash into each other. The Canadian first lost momentum and then the chance of a medal, but still ended up with a terrific 3:41:38 timing.

The pair again have a chance to rub shoulders, or more, along The Mall.

Rafal Augustyn clocked 3:44:42 behind Haukenes in Dudince. But at 33, another hard race walk for the Pole might be an ask too many, while José Leyver Ojeda had a great day at Naumberg in April where the Mexican clocked 3:45:09.

Caio Bonfim of Brazil has an Olympic fourth at 20km as well as ninth from the 50km along familiar territory in Rio.

As ever, the Chinese will be strong with Niu Wenbin, 3:46:12 in Huangshan in March, and Wu Qianlong, 3:48:38, at the same place. But somewhat bizarrely considering times posted from the land of a billion people, China is yet to win a World Championships medal at 50km.

Maybe, London and Sunday morning, 13 August, will be China’s lucky day at last. 

This is 2013 world champion Robert Heffernan’s probable swan song, but at 39, he has the form of a fine sixth at the 2016 Olympics and the memory of a personal best along The Mall from 2012.

Like Tallent, the popular Irishman won a belated medal, the bronze, and bowing out with another or better would be perfect way to bring down the curtain.

Paul Warburton for the IAAF