Zhang Yao in the 10,000m race walk at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Nairobi, Kenya

Report: boys' 10,000m race walk – IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017

The boys’ 10,000m race walk was a historic race for several reasons.

Not only did Zhang Yao win China’s first world U18 title in this discipline, but Dominic Ndigiti earned Kenya’s first global championships medal in a race walking event.

At the beginning, Sanjay Kumar seemed intent on making a similar piece of history for India and shot to the front, covering the first lap in 1:24 and the first 1000 metres in 3:44.76, well inside world U18 best pace. He was closely followed by Ndigiti and the pair had already built up a lead of 100 metres within the first kilometre.

Thankfully the pace soon started to settle and they covered the second kilometre in a more sensible 4:05. The chase pack, led by Ethiopia’s Meseret Ayelign, was still 22 seconds adrift, but they were operating at a more even tempo.

The pace slipped further in the third kilometre as Kumar and Ndigiti covered that section in 4:13. Salavat Ilkaev and Sergey Kozhevnikov, competing as neutral athletes, and Yao made up ground on the lead pair after a 4:07 kilometre.

Sixteen minutes into the race, Kumar was called into the pit lane for two minutes after being shown three red cards for loss of contact. It meant that Ndigiti was left alone out in front and, having passed 4000m in 16:22.77, his lead was down to eight seconds.

Within the space of two laps, Yao had closed the gap on Ndigiti and moved on to the Kenyan’s shoulder with Ilkaev close behind. At half way, passed in 20:35.58, a lead pack of five athletes had formed as Kozhevnikov and Guatemala’s Jose Ortiz joined Ndigiti, Yao and Ilkaev.

The quintet strode together for three more kilometres before Yao darted to the front. He was followed by Ilkaev but had a comfortable lead and continued to pull away from his opponents.

Yao was away and clear, while Ilkaev was safe in the silver medal position, but with two laps to go, Kozhevnikov moved alongside Ndigiti in the battle for bronze.

Yao crossed the line in a world U18 leading 41:12.01 with Ilkaev taking silver in 41:24.17. Cheered on by an enthusiastic home crowd, Ndigiti doggedly held on to his position and made up a lot of ground on Ilkaev, eventually finishing third in 41:25.78. Kozhevnikov finished fourth in 41:26.65.

“The race went as planned,” said Zhang. “My strategy was to follow in the first two kilometres of the race and then lead in the last two kilometres, which worked.”

Ndigiti, meanwhile, was delighted with his performance. “I used a lot of energy since I lacked a teammate to pace for me,” he said. “That made me slow down on my last lap because I couldn't sprint anymore. However, I am happy to deliver Kenya a medal in such an event.”

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF