With a swift injection of pace 700 metres from home, Russia’s Sergey Shirobokov powered away from China’s long-time leader Zhang Jun to take victory in the boys’ 10,000m race walk, the 16-year-old coming home a clear winner in the end in 42:24.41 at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on Saturday morning (18).
Shirobokov played a waiting game for much of the race, buried among the leading pack and rarely showing at the front. Instead, it was left to Zhang to dictate much of the early pace.
After a slow opening kilometre of 4:30.55, he took to the front and led through 2000m in 8:50.40.
A change of gears from Zhang in the third kilometre (4:09.20) whittled the leading pack to eight.
After a brief scare in the fourth kilometre, during which he was forced to stop to put his shoe back on, Zhang soon resumed his role at the front and as he passed 5000m in 21:22.39, although the signs of distress were ringing out for many of those in his slipstream.
At six kilometres, only Russian duo Shirobokov and Zakhar Silva as well as Colombia’s Cesar Alberto Herrera were able to match Zhang’s relentless pace, though when they reached seven kilometres, Herrera began to fade and the leading trio were soon joined by Mexico’s Federico Gonzalez.
With a little more than two kilometres to go, Silva received his third warning for lost contact and was a picture of frustration when he was forced to serve a two-minute penalty, which ended his medal hopes.
Seven out of nine for Russia
Zhang continued to push the pace at the front and soon he had only Shirobokov for company in what was a head-to-head duel for the gold.
With two laps to go, the Russian moved out into lane two and when the pair entered the back straight for the penultimate time, he swiftly changed gears and moved clear, his lead growing throughout the final lap.
In the end, he proved a dominant winner and came home in 42:24.41 to send the title back to Russia for the seventh time in nine editions.
“In the beginning I was a bit scared,” said Shirobokov, “This was my first international competition and I didn’t know how it was going to be, but after we moved to the front and all the rivals faded back, I realised it was okay.
“I am overwhelmed with the gold. I had dreamt about it. In the final two laps, that was when I realised I was going to win. The race walkers in Russia are really strong and we train really hard to be the best in the world.”
China’s Zhang held on well to set a personal best of 42:33.68 in second, with Mexico’s Federico Gonzalez taking third in 42:54.55.
“What an honour to be successful for Mexico,” said Gonzalez. “It is more than a dream for me. I want to improve now, to become an Olympic athlete and eventually win a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF