Ilya Markov (RUS) - 1999 World champion and 2001 silver medallist - 20km Race Walk (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Li Gaobo beats Markov by one second over 20km in Yangzhou

China’s 16old Li Gaobo beat many of the world’s most experienced 20km race walkers in the third leg of the 2006 IAAF Race Walking Challenge which took place in Yangzhou in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, today.

The winning time of 1:18:17 was the fastest seen in the world so far in 2006, and the top-8 finishers all bettered Viktor Burayev’s previous season's lead (1:19:27, 19 Feb).

Gaobo, who set the Asian junior record of 1:18:07 taking fourth place a year ago (23 April) when the 2005 Chinese edition of the Challenge was held in Cixi City, today beat such illustrious names as Russia’s Ilya Markov, 33, the 1999 World champion and 2001 silver medallist, and Francisco Javier Fernandez of Spain, 29, the reigning European title holder and World and Olympic silver medallist for 20km.

The Chinese victor, who also won last year’s National Games 20km title, had a margin of victory over Markov of just one second (1:18:17 to 1:18:18), with Fernandez, who is also a former World record holder 16 seconds adrift of the winner in third.

Markov, who was also second in the Rio Maior Challenge race (1:20:41) on 1 April, was doubly unlucky today as he also missed his personal best by a second (1:18:17 – 12 March 2005).

Last year’s race victor Nathan Deakes of Australia, who recently retained his 20km and 50km Commonwealth Games titles, finished in 8th in 1:19:07, with the seven finishers ahead of him all beating 1:19. Last year, the Australian had finished in an Oceanian record of 1:17:33, while China’s Zhu Hongjun who in 2005 had finished second behind him in an Asian record (1:17:41), could not even finish today’s 20km. 

The women’s 20km in Yangzhou was dominated by Chinese athletes who took the first twelve places, with Belarussia’s Yurchanka Sniazhana‘s 1:34:09 finish in 13th, the best foreign placing.

The race win was taken by 21-year-old He Dan in a 1:28:20 PB - the equal fourth fastest time in the world in 2006 - who beat Song Xiaolang by three seconds, with Liu Hong another three seconds back in third.

He Dan, who was sixth in Cixi City a year ago (1:28:35 – previous PB), was making her second outing in the 2006 IAAF Race Walking Challenge having taken third place at altitude in the opening fixture in Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico.

Today’s result for second placed Liu Hong (1:28:23), who was seventh in Mexico, was also a big improvement on her previous personal best of 1:29:39, which she set when coming seventh in last year’s Challenge race Cixi City race.

Third placed Song Xiaolang,18, who was 12th last year (1:30:15 previous PB), also made a massive improvement to her career best.

Chris Turner for the IAAF

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