04/08/2021   Friday in Sapporo the women's 20km of the Olympic Games




If we had to make a bet if in Tokyo 2020 the podium of the 20km women were to be totally the preserve of a single country, we would certainly play half of our hanging salary on China, remembering what happened in Doha 2019, where not even a disqualification (then the participants was four) managed to stop the Chinese triumph.


On that occasion, Liu Hong defied the harsh conditions to claim her third world title, less than two years after giving birth to her daughter Xixi, cementing her status as one of the all-time greats in the event.

Liu won in Rio five years ago and set a world record of 1:24:38 in 2015 in La Coruna. She also holds the world record over 50km and was the first woman to crack four hours for the discipline. The 34-year-old will aim to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic race walk titles.

But teammate Yang Jiayu will be a formidable opponent. The 2017 world champion cruised to a world record of 1:23:49 earlier this year, smashing Liu’s mark by 49 seconds. Liu finished a distant second in that race but was rewarded with a PB of 1:24:27, faster than her previous world record. 

Qieyang Shijie was third in Yang’s world record race in 1:24:45, a mark that puts her fourth on the world all-time list. Although she has never won a global title or broken a world record like her two teammates, Qieyang is a consistent championships performer. She earned world bronze back in 2011, Olympic silver in 2012 and world silver in 2019.

No country has ever swept the medals in the women’s race walks at the Olympics. China could make history on both counts in Sapporo, but all it takes is one athlete to drop out – either through disqualification, fatigue or injury – and the plan is scuppered.

The race of the rest of the world

Brazil’s Erica de Sena finished fourth at the two most recent World Championships. The 36-year-old, who holds the national record of 1:26:59, will be desperate to finally make it on to a global championships podium.

Sandra Arenas finished right behind De Sena at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. Before heading to Sapporo, the Colombian achieved a confidence-boosting victory in La Coruna.

Italy’s Antonella Palmisano finished just outside the medals in Rio five years ago but went on to take bronze at the World Championships. In her one race of the year so far, the 29-year-old won convincingly at the European Team Championships in Podebrady in 1:27:42.

Eleonora Giorgi, the world 50km bronze medallist with a personal best of 1:26:17, adds further strength to the Italian team. Although she has focused on longer distances in recent years, the 31-year-old is still competitive over 20km. 

Spanish European champion Maria Perez, authorized neutral athlete Elvira Khasanova and Mexican Alegna Gonzalez are expected to feature in the lead pack.
The host nation is well represented by Kumiko Okada and Nanako Fujii. The duo worked as a team at the 2019 World Championships, eventually finishing sixth and seventh respectively. Okada, the more experienced of the two, holds the national record at 1:27:41, while Fujii has a best of 1:28:58.

Some photos of today's training





Zhang Jun and Liu Hong




Cai Zelin and Qieyang Shenjie




Elvira Khasanova