Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom confirmed his favourite status to dominate the men’s race with three straight victories at the Around Taihu International Race Walking competition while Brazil’s Erica de Sena rallied to take the women’s individual title at the last leg of this year’s IAAF Race Walking Challenge that concluded in the Chinese city of Suzhou on Tuesday (22).
World bronze medallist Karlstrom, who finished fifth last year in the three-day event, set a combined time of 3:01:41 to wrap up his convincing victory, 2:20 ahead of the second-placed Manuel Soto of Colombia. Australia’s Rhydian Cowley finished third in 3:05:56.
In the first-day competition, a 20km race staged in the Taihu Lake holiday resort, Karlstrom clocked 1:22:43 to finish first, opening up a lead of 28 seconds. Karlstrom’s winning streak continued on Monday when he clocked 50:30 to win the 12km race in Taihu New Town to extend his advantage to 1:28, and the in-form Swedish went on to win the 12km race at Mudu town in 48:28 on Tuesday.
Although Karlstrom earned the team title in 2017 and 2018, this was the 29-year-old’s first individual overall win at this competition, which was launched in 2013 and added to the IAAF Race Walking Challenge calendar last year.
Thanks to his 20km victory in Suzhou, Karlstrom overtook Japan’s newly crowned world 20km champion Toshikazu Yamanishi, who did not compete this time, to finish at the top of the Race Walking Challenge standings.
Karlstrom was also victorious in the team contest, picking up his third consecutive title. He teamed up with his brother Ato Ibanez, Jhon Alexander Castaneda of Colombia and Ecuadorian duo Andres Chocho and David Hurtado, who finished second and third in the 20km race, as the ‘Umara Racing Team’ won in 9:15:34.
‘Red Caciente’, consisting of Soto, Mexico’s Isaac Palma, Wayne Snyman of South Africa, Ukrainian Ivan Losev and Subra Maniam of Singapore, finished second, followed by China’s ‘A’ team, spearheaded by 2012 Olympic champion Chen Ding.
De Sena shrugged off a 1:28 deficit after the first day’s race and rallied to beat China’s world 50km silver medallist Li Maocuo to take the individual win. The Brazilian’s winning mark was 3:19:00 (1:31:52, 54:43, 52:25), 13 seconds ahead of Li, who finished third in Suzhou last year, while China’s world U20 champion Ma Zhenxia finished third in 3:20:40
Just three weeks after winning her third world 20km race walk title in Doha, Liu Hong maintained her momentum as the 32-year-old clocked 1:29:53 to win the 20km first-day competition.
Li finished second on that stage in 1:30:24, followed by Ma in 1:31:25 and De Sena in 1:31:52.
Liu did not start in the following two 12km races as the Olympic champion was focused only on the IAAF Race Walking Challenge standings. Meanwhile, De Sena scored two 12km victories in a row to earn the individual title.
World silver medallist Qieyang Shijie, who led the Race Walking Challenge standings ahead of Suzhou, was a last-minute withdrawal.
Although Li conceded the individual title to De Sena, she got the upper hand on the Brazilian in the team contest. The Chinese team consisting of Li, Ma, defending individual champion Wang Yingliu, 2015 world silver medallist Lu Xiuzhi and Qiji Zhuoma took the team title in 10:02:05.
‘The Dreamers’, comprising De Sena, Inna Kashyna of Ukraine and Hungary’s Viktoria Madarasz, trailed nearly six minutes to finish second in 10:07:58. ‘Brave Warmis’, which included three Ecuadorian athletes and Stevens Robyn Sierra of the United States, finished third in 10:29:01.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF