Aleksandr Ivanov wins men’s 20K walk at worlds
MOSCOW (AP) — When Aleksandr Ivanov saw a challenger edge past him late in the race, he didn’t panic.
Instead, the 20-year-old Russian kept calm and soon regained the lead, and eventually the gold medal Sunday in the men’s 20-kilometer walk at the world championships.
The turning point came with about two kilometers to go when Erick Barrondo surged past Ivanov, but the Guatemalan was soon kicked out of the race with a third yellow card.
“I saw the moment he was disqualified,” said Ivanov, the youngest-ever winner of a walk race at the worlds. “He was ahead of me, but I had a feeling I shouldn’t try to chase him, and this feeling was right.”
Ivanov won the race that started and ended in Luzhniki Stadium in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 58 seconds, more than 10 seconds ahead of Olympic gold medalist Chen Ding of China. Miguel Angel Lopez of Spain took bronze.
The decision to let Barrondo pass wasn’t the only time in the race that Ivanov made a seemingly contrary choice. He was only in the lead because he ignored his coach’s advice to wait until the last 1,500 meters to make his move.
Ivanov said he was afraid Chen would be too strong of a finisher for him to be able to unleash a strong kick to victory, so he decided to try in the 15th kilometer.
“My intuition did not fail me,” Ivanov said. “I think I did it right, finally, to attack earlier.”
All this came after an unpromising start that saw him in 13th place after the first five kilometers.
“The beginning of the race was rough, but I kept telling myself, ‘Keep going, you have to keep going,’” he said.
Conditions were a challenge to every racer’s resolve. Although the race began and ended in the stadium, most of the race was run on a loop outside that offered little shade or relief from late-afternoon heat of 29 degrees C (84 degrees F).
Chen, however, was also struggling after a rough night.
“I couldn’t sleep at all. I couldn’t relax,” Chen said. “I had too many things on my mind.”
The lead changed hands repeatedly, with Takumi Saito in front for nearly 25 minutes before Japan teammate Yusuke Suzuki overtook him. But Suzuki soon fell to a pursuing pack of Ivanov, Chen, Barrondo and Olympic bronze medalist Wang Zhen of China.
Wang soon pulled far ahead, but was disqualified in the 13 kilometer with a third yellow card.
Ivanov’s win delighted the hometown crowd. Race walking is popular in Russia and fans had been disappointed that defending champion Valery Borchin had pulled out due to injuries.
“There is a change of generation in our race-walking team,” Ivanov said, “and I think that today we, the young ones, represented our country well.”