The IAAF Race Walking Challenge meeting in Taicang, China, kicked off on Friday (22) morning with the 20Km races. And no surprise it was the Chinese who excelled on their home soil in both men’s and women’s races.
The number one favourite in the men’s race, just 20-year-old Wang Zhen did not disappoint. The Heilongjiang athlete broke into the world elite a month ago with a 1:18:37 personal best winning in Lugano, Switzerland, and won another fast race here in Taicang recording another world leading result and PB 1:18:30 to take the victory. The second fastest athlete this year in the 20km distance, Chu Yafei, who set his personal best 1:18:38 in the same Lugano race for second place behind Wang, took another important second place in this race clocking 1:18:45. And exactly as in Lugano, 18-year-old junior athlete Chen Ding was third here, too, cutting almost a minute off his personal best (1:19:39 Lugano) clocking 1:18:52.
The best non-Chinese athlete in the race, double Olympic medallist Jared Tallent of Australia, was fourth in a season’s best 1:19:57 and Korean record holder Kim Hyun-Sub fifth in 1:20:10. The 24-year-old Berlin World Championships bronze medallist Eder Sánchez of Mexico took sixth place with 1:20:19 and 22-year-old German Christopher Linke took a big leap forward, lowering his earlier personal best by three and a half minutes down to 1:20:51 for seventh.
In the women’s race the Chinese athletes were even more commanding. One thing was exactly the same as in the men’s race as the biggest favourite bagged the win with a fast time. The 23-year-old Berlin World Championships bronze medallist Liu Hong also won in Lugano a month ago in 1:29:29 and was a clear winner in Taicang, too, in 1:27:17 equaling her personal best set at the 2008 Olympics where she finished in fourth place.
In second place was the biggest surprise of the competition, 20-year-old Qieyang Shijie, who only raced for the first time nationally in 2009. The Taicang race was only her sixth finished 20km and she has lowered her personal best by almost eight minutes in two years. Qieyang finished in second place in a 1:28:04 PB, almost two and a half minutes faster than her earlier best 1:30:33 from September 2010.
Twenty-one-year-old 2008 World Junior Championships bronze medallist Li Yanfei also set a personal best 1:28:43 for the third place, only her second race under 1:30 in addition to her earlier PB 1:28:57 from 2009 and 19-year-old Gao Ni recorded her first race under the same 1:30 limit finishing in fourth place in 1:29:38. Junior athlete Lu Xiuzhi set a big personal best 1:30:06 for the fifth place only in her second 20km race of career.
Seasoned German Melanie Seeger was sixth in 1:31:19 and Australian Regan Lamble lowered her personal best by more than three minutes to 1:31:39 and seventh place.
China vs Korea in Sunday’s 50Km
In the men’s 50km race, scheduled for Sunday (24), it’s a China versus Korea match. None of the competitors here have walked a fast time during the past few years.
26-year-old Zhao Chengliang had his best year in 2005 when he finished in fifth place at the World Championships in Helsinki and then went on to set a huge personal best 3:36:13 at the National Games for a second place finish. Zhao’s last fast race was in 2009 when he won the National Games in Jinan clocking 3:40:33, also his last finished 50km race. Another 26-year-old, Si Tianfeng, was the fastest of the field in 2010 with a 3:47:04 winning performance at the Asian Games. He too set his PB in 2005 in the same National Games race in Nanjing clocking 3:42:55. Second behind Si in Guangzhou at the Asian Games was Li Lei, 23, who also finished in eighth place at the 2010 World Cup in Chihuahua.
The best Koreans in the race are Lim Jung-Hyun and Kim Dong-Young. 23-year-old Lim set a 3:53:24 national record for a fourth place finish in Guangzhou Asian Games last November behind the Chinese. Former NR holder Kim was a close fifth in the same Asian Games race setting a 3:53:52 personal best behind his countryman.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
Click here for Full Results of the 20Km race