Yusuke Suzuki bags historic gold for Japan

Updated: Sep 30, 2019, 11:59 IST | AFP

Suzuki began to wobble with seven km to the finish and slowed to a crawl repeating this on each of the final three laps on passing the feeding station

Yusuke Suzuki
Yusuke Suzuki

Doha: Yusuke Suzuki made history for Japan on Sunday delivering the country's first ever world title in the men's 50 kilometres walk as competitors conquered Doha's sweltering heat and humidity. Suzuki's pillar to post victory -- who timed 4hrs 04min 20 seconds -- was impressive enough but possibly outdone by the achievement of Portugal's silver medallist Joao Vieira who at 43 became the oldest male athlete to medal at the world championships. "This is very good, I am very happy," said Vieira through a translator, who added there was no question of retirement and he would go to the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Canada's Evan Dunfee, who began the race aged 28 and turned 29 during it (it began at 23.30 local time on Saturday) took bronze. The women's race saw a Chinese 1-2 with Liang Rui taking gold in 4hr 23min 26sec and Li Maocuo the silver. Italy's Eleonora Giorgi took the bronze -- defending champion Ines Henriques failed to finish. For Suzuki it also represented redemption for the 31-year-old after he served a six-month suspension in 2016 for making fraudulent expenses claims.

There were nevertheless some high profile casualties with defending champion and world record holder Yohann Diniz of France dropping out early on as did Slovakia's Olympic gold medalist Matej Toth. Diniz had been scathing on the eve of the race about the IAAF not taking as good care of the walkers and the marathon runners, saying they had been used as "guinea pigs" and taken for "idiots."

However, the 41-year-old was more sanguine when he spoke after his disappointing performance. "I am disappointed to not be able to fight, to not have the weapons to do so," said Diniz, who was clearly not well. "I came here and I don't really know why. My head was not there, I started to suffocate quickly. "I came to defend my title but it was not to be, I just did not have the legs for it I am washed out. "This climate is maybe not for me."

Suzuki began to wobble with seven km to the finish and slowed to a crawl repeating this on each of the final three laps on passing the feeding station. Suzuki had seen his lead of over three minutes reduced to just 96 seconds over China's Niu Wenbin as the bell rang for the 25th and final lap.

However, it was not Suzuki who was in danger but Niu who went to pieces in the final stages and both Vieira and Dunfee passed him to take the minor medals.

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