Russia’s 16-year-old Olga Shargina restored Russia’s outstanding race walking tradition by winning gold in the girls’ 5000m Race Walk, a title which had eluded her country only twice in the 14-year-history of the championships.
Two years ago in Lille her nation had to be content with just a bronze medal, their worst ever display at the event.
Come Donetsk 2013, Shargina, this year’s world youth leader and Russian champion, was determined and left nothing to chance in the scorching heat of Saturday morning.
Biding her time to perfection, Shargina sat in a leading group of five until she decided to make her move with three-and-a-half laps to go. There was no catching the Russian prodigy once she increased the tempo and she crossed the line unchallenged and 150 metres ahead of the best of the rest in a 2013 world youth-leading time of 22:13.91.
Japan’s Momoko Mizota took the silver medal in a personal best of 22:42.77 well clear of Italy’s bronze medallist and early leader Noemi Stella.
Stella set the pace from the gun, leading a pack which included China’s Zhao Wenli, Shargina, Mizota and Tunisia’s Chahinez Nasri. After a quick first 1000m of 4:24.96, Stella took the leaders through a couple of slower splits of 4:36.61 and 4:39.32.
The first casualty was Nasri, the third-fastest entrant in the final who was disqualified just after the pack went through 3000m in 13:40.89.
The pace was obviously a little too slow for Shargina who had sat patiently in the leading pack and she made a decisive move with 1400 metres to go.
Initially, it looked as though it would be a close-fought battle for the remaining medals but with two laps to go, Shargina had increased her lead to 70 metres after producing a 4:23.72 split and Mizota decided to make a move on her own at the front.
The Japanese moved away from Stella and Zhao; the Italian was now 10 metres down on Mizota with Zhao dropping out of medal contention for the first time in the race.
Shargina’s final split was a superb 4:09.30 to underline she was in a class of her own on this occasion.
By contrast, this was obviously not the case for Shargina’s compatriot Klavdiia Afanasieva, the second fastest entrant, who was never a factor in the final and finished a distant fifth in 23:33.24, more than a minute off her personal best.
Shargina, who trains in the national training centre in Saransk, will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the 2009 World youth champion Yelena Lashmanova who went on to win the London 2012 Olympic Games gold medal in a World record last summer.