Vera Sokolova leads fellow Russian Aleksandra Kudryashova (r), and China's Chai Xue (l) (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News La Coruña, Spain

Sokolova retains her title – Junior 10km women, La Coruña

Russia’s Vera Sokolova retained the women's Junior World Race Walking Cup 10km title in a championship record of 44:49, as a result of a devastating burst of speed in the final 200m.

The Chuvash eighteen-year-old also reasserted her domestic dominance, finishing three seconds clear of 15-year-old Aleksandra Kudryashova, reversing their order in the Russian Winter Championships in Adler earlier this year.

Sokolova also led Russia to retain their team victory from two years ago, with, as then, the minimum possbile team score.

Sokolova burst to the front right from the gun, with Volha Mazuronak (BLR) at her shoulder. As the positions settled, the two other Russians - Elena Ladanova and Aleksandra Kudryashova - grouped together in close order behind. Narin Kahraman of Turkey also choose very temporarily to move alongside the leaders but then dropped out of contention leaving the lead group as a quartet.

A 4:25 first kilometre split gave this foursome a five seconds lead on the Chinese Chai Xue.

At 2km (4:24 split) the three Russians pulled clear of Volha Mazuronak, who was by then ten seconds ahead of Chai Xue. Ladanova and Kudryashova occupied positions just behind each shoulder of Sokolova, who was dictating the pace.

Ukrainians Yuliya Davydenko and Svitlana Vavilova working together were already a minute behind the Russian trio who again increased by one second to 4:23 for the third kilometre.

Then at 4km, which was reached in 17:43, the Russians slowed to a 4:31 pace but remained in formation 16 seconds clear of Chai who had a 20 second margin over Mazuronak who already had two warnings cards.

The team standings at this point were an Eastern European affair - Russia 3 points (minimum) with Belarus second and Ukraine.

To 5km the pace increased slightly to 4:30 per km as the younger walker of the group, Kudryashova, began to slightly string out the three reaching half way in 22:13, to Sokolova's 22:13. In the process Ladanova let a 1 metre at gap form behind, reaching 5km in 22:14. All were well inside championship best pace.

Chai was 20 seconds back at 22:33 for half distance. Mazuronak remained 1:01 further back, with Ukraine's Svitlana Vavilova dividing the Belarussian challenge at 23:53 (1:40 back from the leader), three seconds ahead of Hanna Drabena. The Belarussians were also in the precarious position being on 2 warnings by 5km.
By 6km the pace for Sokolova slowed again to 4:35 for the kilometre and Ladanova, who had lunged to the side to grab a sponge to cool her brow, closed again. Then as the leaders reached the full lap marker together at 26:48, Sokolova reasserted her leadership. However, as the Russians watched each other Chai was also closing rapidly - at 4:23 to their 4:37.

By then Sokolova was the only walker in the top five with no warnings to her name.

On the next lap, the Chinese girl Chai veered off course for water but Sokolva kept impassively to a straighter course following the shortest line on the curves.

Then Elena Ladanova's race was ended as she was DQ'd from third place.

Then at the bell Sokolova pushed ahead but Chai moved to challenge as the pace increased to 4:33 for the eighth kilometre. Soklova maintained her strong rhythm - but could not shake off the Chinese challenge, and as these leaders began the last 2km lap Kudryashova closed up the second she had lost on the leaders.

Nine kilometres was reached at 4:30 pace, and with 900m to go the race speedied up markedly, but as soon as Chai picked up her second warning she fell off the pace - leaving just the two Russians.

Sokolova remained impassive as Kudryashova looked smooth right behind her but on the final straight Sokolova pulled ahead by one metre, then another and another…to sprint ahead in the last 200m. She stretched away so rapidly that she won in 44:49, 40 seconds quicker than two years ago, and three seconds clear of the Kudryashova and Chai.

Sokolova's 4:21 last kilometre to Kudryashova 4:23 was decisive, while Chaie Xue trailed off for a 4:36 final split - 15 seconds behind the winner. The fourth place walker wasn't even on the same street - as Volha Mazuronak finished 2:51 behind the winner, but, with Vavilova and Davydenko 5th and 6th, the Ukraine overhauled Belarus for the second team spot.

Vera Sokolova said after the race "It was difficult at the beginning as the pace at the start was too fast - it then got easier. I adapted and saw I was winning. My main problem was to be selected for the World Junior Championships - and I have my place." 

Tim Watt for the IAAF