On her debut at the distance, China’s Liang Rui won the women’s 50km race walk in a world record of 4:04:36 at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Taicang 2018.
The 23-year-old sat in the lead pack for much of the race, passing 10 kilometres in 49:04 and 20 kilometres in 1:38:12.
Half way was reached in 2:02:51, just a shade inside world record schedule, but the pace dropped slightly over the next few laps and the chances of a world record appeared to be slipping away.
Portugal’s world champion and world record-holder Ines Henriques, who had been at the front of the lead pack for the first half of the race, dropped out at about 29 kilometres.
It left four women in the lead pack: Liang, teammates Li Maocuo, world silver medallist Yin Hang and Australia’s Claire Tallent.
With 2:38 on the clock, Tallent tried to make a break but was soon reeled back in by the Chinese trio. A surge of pace from the host nation’s athletes then gave them a 41-second lead over Tallent by 40 kilometres, reached in 2:52:53.
Liang then decided to make a break. After covering the penultimate five-kilometre section in 23:36 – by far the quickest split of the race – she had opened up a lead of nearly two minutes over Li and was back on track to break the world record.
Cheered on by the home crowd, the drizzle didn’t dampen Liang’s spirits as she maintained her tempo until the end, crossing the finish line in 4:04:36 to take 80 seconds off the world record set by Henriques at last year’s IAAF World Championships.
Li faded in the closing stages as Yin came through to take silver in 4:09:09, just 11 seconds shy of the PB she set when finishing second at the World Championships last year. Tallent came through for third place in an Oceanian record of 4:09:33.
(Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF)