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Race walker Ivanov claims first gold for Russia in Moscow worlds

Updated: 2013-08-12 13:08

Race walker Ivanov claims first gold for Russia in Moscow worlds

Aleksandr Ivanov of Russia (C) holds his country's flag after winning the men's 20km race walk final with second placed Chen Ding (L) of China and thrid placed Miguel Angel Lopez of Spain (R) during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Aug 11, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW - Russia's Alexandr Ivanov claimed the first gold medal for the hosts Russia at the 2013 IAAF World Championships as he clocked a personal best of one hour, 20 minutes and 58 seconds to win the dramatic men's 20km walk race which saw two leaders fouled out here on Sunday.

Japan's Takumi Saito took an early charge and enjoyed the sole lead as the racers walking out of the stadium. Saito's teammate Yusuke Suzuki, who set a national record of 1:18.34 when winning in Nomi City in March, took the lead after 5km. Ukraine's Andrii Kovenko stayed third behind Saito, while walkers from powerhouses of China and Russia all followed patiently in the chasing package.

It seemed that Suzuki, eighth two years ago in Daegu, had not learnt from his London experience when he made the pace at the front during early stages of the race only to unravel and drift back to 36th place. After leading past the 10km mark, Suzuki surrendered his lead to China's bronze medalist in London Wang Zhen and was soon surpassed by the chasing group.

Wang led the race for three kilometers and was trying to extend his lead before he received the red card and had to quit the race, leaving reigning champion Chen Ding of China, Guatemala's Olympic runner-up Erick Barrondo and Ivanov in the co-leading position.

The trio walked together for another two kilometers and the Russian speeded up to seized the lead. Then Barrondo launched a powerful charge to the lead but was also shown the red card right before returning to the stadium.

The 20-year-old Ivanov entered the stadium with a 13-second lead and clinched the gold in front of a jubilant local crowds.

"I feel happy and tired. I haven't realized yet that I'm the world champion. I'm still young, only 20 and my main aim is Rio 2016," said Ivanov. "There is a change of generations in our race walking team and I think that today we, the young ones, represented our country well."

Russia's 2011 World champion Valery Borchin was injured and did not defend his title but, while the trio competing in Moscow, namely Ivanov, former World and European junior champion Andrey Ruzavin and 2013 European Cup winner Denis Strelkov, have never competed at a World Championships before.

"The beginning of the race was particularly tough, but I kept telling myself 'keep going, you have to keep going'. I saw the moment when Barrondo was disqualified, he was ahead of me, but I had a feeling that I shouldn't try to chase him, and this feeling was right," he added.

"This is the first gold medal which I won in the major international games. I didn't win the race by chance, I did a lot of training. I really appreciate the help of my coach, who saw something special in me. He helped me to come over all the difficulties, encouraging me to get prepared for the next Olympics. I can't let him down."

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