Women’s world 20km race walk record-holder leads Chinese 1-2 at IAAF World Championships, narrowly beating Lu Xiuzhi

Liu Hong won China’s first gold medal of the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, just beating Lu Xiuzhi to lead home a Chinese 1-2.

The world 20km race walk record-holder clocked 1:27:45 to take the title as Lu recorded the same time for silver, while Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Olyanovska bagged a clear bronze.

The Chinese duo had taken an early lead and passed the 5km point in 22:24 with Czech Republic’s world junior champion Anezka Drahotova two seconds behind.

Liu and Lu had built up a 26-second lead at the halfway point and by 15km they were still clearly ahead, with a 21-second advantage, but Olyanovska was closing the gap.

The Ukrainian was never a threat, though, and in the final 5km the top two spots were decided but the battle for gold was on.

Liu and Lu left the 1km loop course and entered the Bird’s Nest stadium to huge cheers to complete the final 200m of the race. The world record-holder, who clocked her 1:24:38 best in La Coruna in June, edged ahead in the final metres to lead home China’s second 1-2 in this event at the World Championships.

China’s last gold in this event had come as part of that 1-2 in Seville in 1999 – the first time the 20km walk was held rather than competition over half the distance – when Liu Hongyu won ahead of Wang Yan.

Ana Cabecinha was one place but more than a minute outside of the medals with her time of 1:29:29.

After her seventh place finish in Moscow as an 18-year-old, Drahotova was one place down on that this time around as she clocked 1:30:32.

China’s third athlete, Nie Jingjing, clocked 1:32:40 for 17th, one place ahead of New Zealand’s Alana Barber with a 1:33:20 national record.

Meanwhile, USA’s world record-holder Ashton Eaton got his decathlon campaign off to a strong start, clocking 10.23 in the first event – the 100m – to break the championship record for the event as part of a decathlon and also miss his own decathlon world record mark by just 0.02.

Just behind him was Canada’s Damian Warner who ran 10.31 to also dip inside the old championship best mark, while Germany’s Rico Freimuth was third in 10.51 as the five fastest times came in the fourth and final race.

After one event, Eaton had an early lead of 1040 points, while Warner was on 1020, Freimuth 973, Brazil’s Felipe dos Santos 968 and USA’s Trey Hardee 961.

Eaton leapt furthest in the long jump with 7.88m to take his tally to 2070 after two events. Next best was Germany’s Michael Schrader with 7.71m as Warner leapt a 7.65m PB to sit second on 1992 points at this stage. Fifth in this event was dos Santos with 7.54m which just bettered Freimuth’s 7.51m and the pair were third and fourth with respective points totals of 1913 and 1910 ahead of the shot put.

Freimuth threw furthest in the third event with 15.50m, while Eaton managed 14.52m – the ninth best of the competition. Warner’s PB of 14.44m put him 11th in that event. At the end of the first morning, Eaton had 2830 points, Warner was second with 2747 and Freimuth third with 2730.

World no.1 Mutaz Essa Barshim, defending champion Bohdan Bondarenko and Canada’s Derek Drouin – the Olympic and world bronze medallist – were among those to secure their spots in the high jump final along with local favourite Zhang Guowei. GB’s Robbie Grabarz was among those who didn’t make it through, the Olympic bronze medallist failing his three attempts at 2.29m, which was also a height that proved too much for athletes including Russia’s Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov,  USA’s 2011 champion Jesse Williams and Ukraine’s 2005 champion Yuriy Krymarenko.

» See the September 3 edition of AW magazine for coverage of the final five days of World Championships action, while the August 27 edition includes reports, results, news, stats and more from the first four days