Shifting gears with less than 300 metres to go, China’s Ma Zhenxia stormed to victory in the girls' 5000m race walk at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on Saturday morning (18) to add the world youth title to the Youth Olympic Games gold medal she won last year on home soil in Nanjing.
Ma clocked a season’s best of 22:41.08 to capture the second title in the event for China and a fourth medal overall, breaking through what has largely been a Russian stranglehold in the girls’ race walks.
“I am very happy, especially with my last lap, I was nearly flying,” said Ma, who clocked her 22:22.08 lifetime best at the Youth Olympic Games.
Ma, who turns 17 next month, bided her time early in the race, remaining well within striking range as the leading pack dwindled from 11 with six laps to go, and then to nine with four to go and just five with 800 metres remaining: Ma and her team-mate Xue Ke, the Russian pair of Olga Eliseeva and Margarita Koleshnichenko and Ethiopia's unheralded Ayalnesh Dejene.
At the bell, Eliseeva upped the tempo and attempted a break, but it was quickly thwarted as the leading trio entered the back straight for the final time.
Ma moved ahead and into the lead and quickly opened a three-metre margin, one which she extended as she rounded her way towards the finish.
Impressively, she covered the final kilometre in 4:12.07, the fastest in the contest.
Eliseeva held on for second in 22:45.09, followed by surprise bronze medallist Dejene, who clocked a lifetime best of 22:48.25.
An early leader, the Ethiopian fought her way back into medal contention over the final lap to capture the first global medal ever in a race walking event for Ethiopia, a country well known for endurance prowess but not necessarily of the heel-to-toe variety.
Further back, Ma’s team-mate Xue was fourth with a personal best 23:01.68, marginally ahead of Mexico’s Valeria Ortuno, who crossed the line in 23:01.90.
Koleshnichenko, second on the world youth lists coming into Cali, faded badly over the final lap and finished 12th.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF