Vladimir Kanaykin sensationally chipped five seconds of the world record for the men’s 20km race walk and surprised everybody, including himself, at the final of the 2007 IAAF Race Walking World Challenge in Saransk, Russia, today.
The women’s 20km was won by world champion Olga Kaniskina in a race which she dominated with a world season lead of 1:26:47.
Everyone enjoyed an opening ceremony the night before which filled the town’s stadium. Yes, more than 5000 turned up for the flag waving and speeches for a race walk championship. No wonder the town makes a proud claim as the race-walking capital of the world.
Today, thousands of spectators standing two or three deep in places also thronged the sides of the 2km loop course to cheer on the competitors.
Not even Kanaykin's coach thought an eclipse of Jefferson Perez’s four-year old mark was on the cards until the last 400 metres, and then it became increasingly clear the 22-year-old was about to delight his home town following on a perfect course.
Kanaykin had already posted a super fast 1:17:36 in winning the Russian Championships in June, but this race was at the end of a long season including 50km at last month’s World Championships in Osaka, where he failed to finish.
It helped that he had the help of three countrymen for all but the last 2k lap. But such was the speed the quartet were travelling it said much for Kanaykin’s technique and strength he was the only one of the four to survive the judge’s red disc.
The weather was also as perfect as the course. Starting at 10am local time, it was overcast, with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees. More to the point there was no wind, but the 2k loop was as straight as a dye, except for the turns at either end. The local organizing committee were also congratulating themselves on forking out some of their $800,000 race budget by re-surfacing the entire course.
Kanaykin built up a eight-second lead at 5k reached in 19:25, but was then quickly joined by Valeriy Borchin, Igor Yerokhin and junior champion Sergey Morozov making his debut.
At 10k the four shot through in 38:28, with the rest of the field trailing in their wake.
Luke Adams from Australia was more than a minute back, and Norway’s Erik Tysse was struggling with a hip injury a minute further back. Both were vying for the top $30,000 Challenge prize, but on the next lap Tysse called it a day unable to shug off a hip injury sustained in Osaka.
At the sharp end, Kanaykin was shrugging off the opposition like a worn out coat.
Yerokhin was first to see the red disc, and a tiring Morozov, making his debut at the distance, had already fallen off the pace by the time he was removed as he attempted to start the final lap.
Kanaykin must have sensed something was on as he hammered down the final straight, and his coach shouted a warning even though the talented Russian had yet to post a card.
Breaking the tape five seconds ahead of Perez’s mark set at the World Championships in Paris in 2003, Kanaykin looked as if he could do another three laps at the same pace.
“I realised with one lap to go I could break the world record, but my coach warned me about being DQ’d,” said Vladimir Kanyakin. “It’s amazing, and I can’t really take it all in right now. I never thought I could break the record. The course was impressive, but not as much as the people cheering for me.
“I knew I had to walk hard for them – after all, most of them are neighbours.”
Adams moved through from fifth to second having passed just Vladimir Stankin, but the real story of the day went to a man, whose name translated into English means ‘the whole world’. How fitting.
“The course was perfect but it seemed long because of the long straight. My PB is 1:19:19 so 1:21:03 is not so good for me,” confirmed Luke Adams. “I was hoping to get 5th place and I feel very lucky to have finished second. I was hoping for a fast time here as I trained hard for Osaka. I am tired with all the travelling and only trained once a day. There were a lot of problems getting here but once we did, the course, food and organization have been perfect.”
Erik Tysse who did not finish the race commented: “My hip flexor has been a problem since Osaka and bearing that in mind did not think that it was worth it to hurt himself further bearing in mind I have to start training for Beijing (Olympics) next week.”
She always wears a pained expression even from the gun – but Olga Kaniskina made light work of the Race Walking Challenge final in her home town.
Osaka’s World Champion was never headed, and after a season in which she has ably stepped into the shoes of former champions like Olympiada Ivanova, the latest from the Russian champions production line must now be considered favourite for Olympic gold in Beijing next year.
The 22-year-old had company for 16k, and then shook off final challenger Anisya Kornikova to come home just 44 seconds outside her best.
Kornikova, at just 17, gamely kept up the chase and was rewarded with 1:27:59 for a sparkling debut at the distance.
Third went to Tatyana Korotkova, a veritable veteran at 27, who was nonetheless rewarded with a season’s best of 1:28:45.
The sun came out for the start of the race turning up the heat for the field of 23. Not that seemed to make much difference to Kaniskina, Tatyana Shemyakina and Kornikova.
They bore numbers, one, two, and three and were determined to make it much the same on the podium.
At 4k they already had nearly a minute lead over a distant group of 12 that included Kjersti Platzer, Romanian Claudia Stef, and Greek Athina Papayianni plus a throng of promising Russians.
The leading two then lost Shemyakina after four 2k laps and then increased the difference over the rest to reach 10k in 43:17.
Thereafter, it was one way to the finish line for the first two, although there were rewards for those that battled the red tape to get to Saransk in the first place.
Norwegian Platzer dropped out at 9k as a back problem flared up:
“The pain was in my left leg today, but it’s a result of my back injury. I’m pleased to have finished so high up the Challenge.”
“This race was more difficult than the World Championships, because there was more responsibility to perform for my coach and the people here,” said Olga Kaniskina. “The weather was not a problem, but I was not concerned about a PB. It’s also too early to worry about Beijing.”
Paul Warburton for the IAAF
**World record subject to usual ratification procedures
1. Vladimir Kanaykin (RUS) 1:17:16 (WR)
2. Luke Adams (AUS) 1:21:01
3. Vladimir Stankin (RUS) 1:21:26
4. Sergey Sergachev (RUS) 1:21:56
5. Aleksandr Prokhorov (RUS) 1:22:13
6. Ivan Trotsky (BLR) 1:23:13
7. Antaloliy Kukushkin (RUS) 1:23:38
8. Aleksandr Yargunkin (RUS) 1:24:49
1. Olga Kaniskina (RUS) 1:26:47
2. Anisya Kornikova (RUS) 1:28:00
3. Tatyana Kortokova (RUS) 1:28:46
4. Lyudmila Arkhipova (RUS) 1:29:20
5. Tatyana Sibileva (RUS) 1:29:53
6. Olga Mikhaylova (RUS) 1:31:46
7. Sabine Zimmer (GER) 1:32:19
8. Athina Papayaánni (GRE) 1:32:34