Diniz and Rui expected to dominate race walks
It will be tough to beat the Chinese women walkers who have recorded impressive timings this year.
Race walking may not be a glamour event, but it certainly is a test of endurance and skill. There are quite a few star walkers assembled in Doha for the IAAF World Championships, with both the men’s and women’s 50km event scheduled to start at 11.30pm on Saturday, at the Corniche.
Defending champion Yohann Diniz is expected to top the men’s field. The Frenchman, who missed the European Championship due to an injury but returned in style to win the European Cup in an impressive 3hr 37min 43sec in April this year, has proved that at 41 he is still the best.
However, Olympic champion Matej Toth of Slovakia and China’s Wang Quin are expected to pose serious threats to the Frenchman’s title hopes.
Japan’s former 20km world record holder Yusuke Suzuki, who will be competing in 50km in Doha, is also a contender for a place on the podium.
A couple of Chinese are also in the mix. Asian Games silver medallist Wang Qin, Niu Wenbin and Luo Yadong have all recorded impressive timings this season and could be a threat to Diniz, but upstaging the Frenchman is not an easy task.
It is the women’s 50km field that has seen the emergence of quite a few super walkers in recent times. When Portuguese Ines Henriques won the gold with an effort of 4:05:56 at the 2017 World Championships in London it was a new world record then. But within just two years, her mark is now the seventh best as there emerged quite a few “new kids on the block”, notably from China.
With Liu Hong, the current world record holder, opting for the 20km race, it will be her compatriots Liang Rui and Li Maocuo who are likely to challenge the Europeans for the crown.
Rui is a former world record holder while Maocuo has the fastest time among all competitors in the field.
The flood-lit Corniche will be their stage as the walkers chase glory on Saturday night. But it is unlikely that world records and even personal bests can be bettered.
Sweden’s Anataole Ibanez, who is competing at his fourth World Championships, said after a trial walk that it would not be about fast timings but the emphasis would be making it to the podium.
“The conditions will not allow that (fast timings),” he said. “What the walkers could do is not to really focus on fast times, instead go slower if you must, because that’s the only way to get onto the podium.”
However, one things is sure – strategy and tactic will take precedence over speed and timing.