Chinese race walker He Xianghong dominated the men’s 35km race at the opening leg of the Chinese National Race Walk Grand Prix, improving the Asian record by 20 seconds here on Saturday.
The 24-year-old He, who finished fifth at the Oregon World Athletics Championships in Eugene, built up a comfortable sole lead soon after the start. He maintained a fast and steady pace throughout the race and kept extending the gap to the chasers, wrapping up the overwhelming victory in two hours, 22 minutes and 55 seconds.
His winning mark not only shattered his own national record of 2:24:45, but also beat the Asian record of 2:23:15 set by Japan’s Masatora Kawano at the Oregon worlds, and is 19 seconds faster than Italian world champion Massimo Stano’s winning mark in Eugene.
“My goal for the race is to achieve a world-best performance,” said ambitious He, who represents the Chongqing team. “The last 5km used to be my weak point. Last year at the World Championships my pace slowed down in the last 5km. I knew I was not strong enough at that time. In the winter training, I mainly worked on my speed. I even trained with 20km race walkers to improve speed. The victory today is the reward for all the hard work during the winter.”
Wang Qin of Shanxi finished second in 2:26:10, followed by Zhaxi Yangben from Qinghai, husband of Olympic champion Qieyang Shijie, in 2:29:36.
In the women’s 35km race, unheralded Bai Xueying stunned a deep field as she rallied to claim the victory with a personal best of 2:40:59, just 22 seconds shy of the Asian record set by Qieyang in Eugene last year.
The 22-year-old Bai started her powerful surge from a remote fourth place with 10km to go. When she overtook Qieyang in the penultimate loop to finally gain the leading position, the unguarded race favorite even took her for a lapped chaser.
Lagging behind Bai by one minute, Qieyang had to settle for second place in 2:41:59. Her Qinghai teammate Li Maocuo, the 50km silver medalist at the 2019 worlds in Doha, finished third in 2:42:39.
The Grand Prix in Huangshan also served as one of the qualifying events for the 2023 World Championships in Budapest and the Asian Games in Hangzhou. The top three finishers in both the men’s and women’s races all met the entry standard for the 2023 worlds.
The World Athletics Race Walking Tour event in Dudince, Slovakia on March 25 will be another qualifying event for China’s 35km race walkers.
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