DOHA – Toshikazu Yamanishi of Japan took gold in the men’s 20-km race walk at the IAAF World Athletics Championships on Saturday, making him a favorite on home roads at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
In the sizzling heat and humidity of the Qatari night, Yamanishi had a comfortable lead for the second half of the race, crossing the finish line in 1 hour, 26 minutes and 34 seconds.
The 23-year-old, a graduate of Kyoto University, increased his tempo around the 7-km point when China’s Wang Kaihua made a bold move. Yamanishi overtook Wang by the 9-km point and gradually pulled clear of the chasing pack.
“A part of me is relieved, a part of me is crushed,” Yamanishi said.
“I got lucky because the athlete behind me faded and I was able to pull away. I wanted to win in a more convincing manner.
“I’ll keep working hard in order to win again next year (at the Olympics).”
Vasily Mizinov, a Russian authorized to compete as a neutral athlete, closed up on Yamanishi toward the end of the race, finishing 15 seconds behind him.
Perseus Karlstrom took the bronze by clocking a time of 1 hour and 27 minutes, giving Sweden its first race walking medal at the world championships since 1991.
Several walkers did not finish the race on Doha’s famous Corniche promenade, which started at 11:30 p.m. to minimize the harmful effects of the heat on competitors.
Yamanishi’s medal completed a double for Japanese male race walkers in Doha after Yusuke Suzuki won gold in the 50 km event earlier in the championships.
The extreme conditions walkers faced in Doha will provide useful training and tactics for the Tokyo Olympics, where the heat and humidity are expected to be similar.