Johanna Jackson wondered whether Her Majesty had taken a peep from behind a Buckingham Palace curtain at the Olympic ‘Test’ Race Walks on Monday (30 May).
The 2km loop from halfway down The Mall circumnavigates the Victoria Memorial and passes in front of the sovereign's front window before taking in a hefty chunk of Constitution Hill.
Unfortunately, the Queen was out and missed the UK’s top female zip by, even if Jackson was only half joking.
But there were plenty of spectators who did take an interest in the Cinderella athletics event – delighted at witnessing their first competitive walk in the flesh and Jackson's win.
The Commonwealth Games gold medallist has a 1:30:41 best for seventh in the 2010 IAAF Race Walking Challenge in La Coruna and is in top form. She proved it by winning this race in a clocking only a minute slower on a day when the pace was mostly on the conservative side.
Jackson’s finish, tenth overall, was a bonus when the real purpose of the day was ironing out glitches before the real thing next year. She also had the comfort of victory 24 hours after winning the 3km Inter Counties event in Bedford, and a week after an excellent 12th in the European Cup in Olhao, Portugal, last weekend.
Her plan was to use GB team-mate Dominic King as pacemaker in the men’s, women’s and two UK Junior 10km races that started simultaneously. For extra company, the pair had IAAF World Championship bronze medallist Hong Liu and Sylwia Korzeniowska in tow.
The sister of famous IAAF World and Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski then created a 15-metre gap on lap three timed passed in 27:41. By then, Liu made it plain she wasn’t in the mood for flat-out racing, and was head bent into the sputtering rain that threatened the grey Bank Holiday Monday until it finally arrived.
Jackson then drew level with Korzeniowska on the next lap, and by halfway (46:13) had creviced out a decisive 30 metres in just one lap.
The Briton's negative split told its own tale on the rest of the field all the way to the line.
She said: “My aim is to make the top 10 in the (IAAF) World Championships in Daegu – and then top eight at least back here at the Olympics.”
“It was slightly surreal to be passing Buckingham Palace each time – and walkers on home soil have generally done well in the Olympics – so who knows? I missed 60 days training this winter through illness, but I feel I’ve made that up since I returned properly.”
Second, after making steady progress through the rain, was Neringa Aidietyte in 1:34:01, with Korzeniowska a distant third. Liu’s 1:39:00 – a slowest recorded 20km, was an incredible 11:43 behind her April IAAF Race Walking Challenge win on home soil in Taicang.
London-based Aidietyte was only seven seconds outside her best, and will surely have done her Olympic chances no harm with this result.
Men’s 20km goes China’s way
If Liu didn’t fancy it – her team-mates made sure the result of the men’s race was never in doubt. Zhen Wang and Li Jianbo were away from the start and lapped backmarkers in the largely domestic field as early as 8km.
For all that, the pair admitted through an interpreter afterwards that if this was the Olympic course – they have seen better.
Wang has two 2011 IAAF Challenge victories already, with both comfortably under 79 minutes. But although he finally detached himself from Jianbo at 8km and forged a 17-second gap by halfway (41:21/41:48), his eventual win was six minutes slower than Lugano and Taicang – and only partially due to a third-gear cruise.
He said: “The camber on the road was difficult. And although the Constitution Hill climb was not severe – it was deceptive because it was quite long.”
Behind the pair, American John Nunn was in a group of two Chinese to start with, and then made inroads on the leading duo to take a deserved third that might have been even better had there been an extra circuit as Jianbo tired.
Swede Andreas Gustafsson was a lonely fourth (1:28:55) with two more Chinese and four Britons making up the top 10 – all of whom have a decent chance of Olympic ‘B’ selection.
In this case, Yorkshire’s Ben Wears knows what it’s like to head his team-mates even if the others have yet to shake last week’s European Cup out of their legs.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF
1 Zhen Wang (CHN) 1:24:10;
2 Li Jianbo (CHN) 1:25:45;
3 John Nunn (USA) 1:26:19;
4 Andreas Gustafsson (SWE) 1:28:55;
5 Niu Wenbin (CHN) 1:29:51;
6 Chu Yafei (CHN) 1:30:27;
7 Ben Wears (GBR) 1:30:32;
8 Daniel King (GBR) 1:30:40;
9 Alex Wright (GBR) 1:31:42;
10 Tom Bosworth (GBR) 1:32:28
1 Johanna Jackson (GBR) 1:31:50;
2 Neringa Aidietyte (LTU) 1:34:01;
3 Sylwia Korzeniowska (FRA) 1:35:24;
4 Hong Liu (CHN) 1:39:00;
5 Susan Randall (USA) 1:46:51;
6 Andrea Kovacs (HUN) 1:49:46