Hao Wang of China wins the men's 20km race in Chihuahua (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Wang saves best for last for Chinese sole individual gold in Chihuahua

China posts the kind of times that are a constant of any year’s top 10.

So it’s always been something of a mystery they’ve only had two men’s IAAF World Race Walking Cup win - until now that is.

When Hao Wang cut the binds that tied him to team-mate Yafei Zhu over the last kilometre of the race, there was even time for the man with a 1:18:13 PB to be the first of the weekend to give a victory wave some distance before the finishing line.

Chinese take team gold too!

As a result China picked up their first men’s golds since 1995 when they were at home in Beijing - and better still - got a silver to go with it and a team victory on top.
But the race for third was the most dramatic of the five races in this 24th edition of walking’s showcase.

After the Chinese dropped Colombia’s Luis Fernando Lopez, Erik Tysse and Andrey Krivov - the three burned up the last 200 yards with the Russian Krivov falling over the line just a second ahead of the Norwegian, with Lopez unable to respond in the final sprint for bronze.

By the finish there was a string of walkers scattered around the course with nine or ten a lap behind caught up in the stampede for third place.

But such was the width of the road, the journey from the centre at the turn to the drinks table was close to five metres across, and then because the course narrowed at the end of each lap straight after, the zig-zag effect and scramble for sponges must have added an unwelcome 50m to the race.

And in this heat, where every unnecessary second spent in the sun was one too many, it says much for the fortitude of the 20km walkers they were able to go through the first 2km in 8:24 and then speed up.

Former Olympic champion Ivano Brugnetti was heading the charge, although the other 24 walkers leaning on his shoulder contained all the favourites including 40-year-old Bernardo Segura - an IAAF World Cup winner as far back as 1999.

Host country grabs team bronze

The second lap from the lead group was marginally quicker in 8:20, described as ‘conservative’ by the on-course commentator - but still hitting the 5km mark in 20:50. Chinese Jianbo Li was a vest ahead of Tysse, with Eder Sanchez - favourite in all senses of the word as far as Mexico were concerned, right behind the first two.

But gradually the leaders wound up the pace to pass half-way in 41:28, with Lopez hoping to make it a double celebration for Colombia after they won the men’s junior 10km on Saturday night.

That was too much for long-time leader Brugnetti, who slid off the back, although the real surprise was Sanchez suffering to the extent that 2km later he was 30 seconds off the pace.

For once, the Russians were not expected to do much in these conditions, but at 14km Krivov took a turn at the front.

The man with a 1:19:06 PB was actually the slowest of his countrymen as far as 2010 times were concerned - but was clearly in good shape by the time the leaders were down to five at 15km (62.05).

Lopez was hanging on despite picking up two DQ cards, Tysse was shadowing Krivov - and for the first time, the might of China showed in the form of Zhu and Wang.

Over the eighth lap the lead swapped three times with Lopez, Zhu and Wang all trying to get a foot on the podium, and the constant duelling took its toll by the time they took the bell.

Zhu and Wang took off like they had just sat on the sun, never mind toiled under it for 74 minutes.

Their effort was well rewarded, although there was something in it for the hosts – Mexico got a team bronze behind Russia’s silver.

Paul Warburton for the IAAF