Women’s20km race walker Liu Hong, who won China’s first gold of the Championships this morning, explained how she had agreed with silver medallist and team-mateXiuzhi Lu that they wouldn’t speed up at the finish after entering the stadium together.
“At the end of the race Lu and I talked,” said 28-year-old Liu, who finished astride ahead although both walkers were given the time of 1hr 27min 45sec. “We’re both from the Chinese team but we don’t train together and don’t know each other that much.
“We talked about whether we should engage in a really fierce competition because each of us wanted this gold. But then my little sister said ‘Let’s just enter the stadium like this’, so there wasn’t a very fierce ending.”
Liu, who set a world record of 1:24.38 in winning the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Coruna in June, added:
“I was under a lot of pressure today. I felt the responsibility and the mission.
“ButI have also myself to blame for building this pressure because I broke the world record this year. And in the women’s race walking there are many great athletes, record-holders who didn’t come to Beijing Championships.
“So that is why I put a lot of pressure on myself, I wanted to show I’m capable to win here. Still, I felt very confident as my preparation went very well this season and I had no injuries. I entered this Championship knowing I was in very good shape and I’m very excited to have this gold medal as it was my dream.
“The injuries that bothered me at the last World Championships in Moscow and during last year’s Race Walking World Cup made me change my training techniques. Also, we have now the best doctors taking care of us in the Chinese team. So this year I was able to avoid injuries and that’s why I’m in such good shape.
“WithLu we were among the strongest walkers in our event, so we started really fast and there were no people following us. So we kept our pace and finished the race with it. In the latter half, the rest of the field increased the speed and so did we. We had a few warnings. But throughout the race, we were our own competitors.”
Lu,21, commented: “It was my first performance at the World Championships and I’m so glad to get a silver medal today.”
Bronze medallist Lyudmyla Olyanovska of Ukraine, who finished in 1:28.13, said she knew gold was going to the host nation.
“Even before the race, I knew that Chinese walkers would do everything to win at the home championships,” she said.
“AfterLiu set the world record earlier this year, it was absolutely clear that she was going to take gold in Beijing. We discussed with my coach different options for this race strategy but we decided that it would be better to keep my own speed, starting more or less slow to save the power for the second half of the distance but keeping the leaders in sight.
“We were also taking weather conditions into account. Certainly, I was preparing for Beijing in the hot climate zone as well but humidity is too high here. It wasn’t easy to bear but I had incredible support from all our team and even Chinese people. That fact inspired me a lot. I had a difficult moment at the14km mark but fortunately, it wasn’t protracted and I managed to speed up.”