Liang Rui wins the 50km race walk at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (© Getty Images)
For an event that has a reputation for being so unpredictable – especially when combined with challenging conditions – the women’s 50km race walk went largely to the formbook.
China’s former world record-holder Liang Rui, winner at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Taicang 2018, added another gold medal to her collection by winning the title in 4:23:26.
Teammate Li Maocuo followed three minutes later to take the silver medal in 4:26:40 while Italy’s European record-holder Eleonora Giorgi took the bronze medal in 4:29:13.
The eventual medallists were always near the front of the pack, passing through 5km together in 27:46 before reaching 10km in 55:18, joined by defending champion Ines Henriques.
The lead quartet remained together for another few laps before Giorgi began to lose contact with the others. Shortly before the half-way point, Liang started to make a move and opened a gap on Li. Henriques, meanwhile, was unable to match the pace of the leader and dropped back to fourth place behind Giorgi.
Over the course of the remaining 20 kilometres, the positions of the top three didn’t change, just the gap between them. By 40 kilometres, Liang had extended her lead to 99 seconds while Li had a comfortable three-minute margin over Giorgi. Henriques, meanwhile, continued to struggle and eventually withdrew with Ukraine’s Olena Sobchuk taking up fourth place.
Liang, who has a best of 4:04:36, forged on ahead and eventually crossed the line in 4:23:26 to become the first Chinese athlete, man or woman, to win a world title in the 50km race walk.
“We all tried our best to finish this race which was very tough,” said Liang. “My coach told me to start slowly and use the ice. I think it helped a lot.”
Li took silver in 4:26:40 with Giorgi earning bronze in 4:29:13.
“The time was not important today,” said Giorgi. “I felt like a warrior.”
Sobchuk finished fourth in 4:33:38 from China’s Ma Faying.
When the women’s 50km race walk made its debut at the World Championships in 2017, just four of the seven athletes finished. In Doha, however, there were 24 starters and 15 finishers.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF