World Champs Men’s 20K Walk — A Japanese 1-2

Toshizaku Yamanishi beat his favored teammate to join the multiple-winners club. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

STEP ASIDE, Maurizio Damilano. Make room, Jefferson Pérez. You’re not alone now, guys.

Welcome to the club (of multiple men’s 20K walk WC champions), Toshikazu Yamanishi.

Italy’s Damilano won it in ’87 & ’91, Ecuador’s Pérez in ’03, ’05 & ’07.

And, on a hot Friday afternoon Japan’s 26-year-old Yamanishi put his name among the exalteds with a blazing 1:19:07 win over favored countryman Koki Okeda (1:19:14) and Swedish vet Perseus Karlström (1:19:28) in the second event of a Day 1 mid-afternoon women’s/men’s 20K doubleheader.

“Yes, yes, I’m very lucky to do this,” said the repeat champion, a University of Kyoto engineering alum and now a full-time athlete. “The pace was fast and conditions challenging. A lot of other guys had their chances.”

But Yamanishi’s pace was consistent and unrelenting. He opened with a 3:55 kilometer, He finished with a 3:41. He was never over 4:08.

From its ’83 outset, the men’s 20K crown had resided (through 17 editions), in Europe (9 wins), the Americas (7) and Asia (1—Yamanishi at Doha in ’19) but for tantalizingly long stretches of this one, an African win looked like a strong possibility.

Give full credit to Samuel Gathimba of Kenya for being in contention to actually take this race, or at least to medal, for well over 18 of this event’s single-kilometer circuits. But while Yamanishi, Okeda and Karlström could deliver homestretch sprints, Gathimba fell just short, with a closing 3:49 loop for a 1:19:25 finish in 4th, a mere and tantalizing 7 seconds off the podium.

“The world knows all about the great Kenya runners,” said Gathimba. “Kenya has so many runners, we all know that, but I want to show people that Kenyans can be racewalkers, too. I really thought I could at least win a medal. But Karlström was just a better finisher.”

Ecuador’s Brian Pintado — latest in the line of Pérez successors — finished a solid 1:19:34 for 5th, with Brazil’s Caio Bonfim (the ’17 bronze medalist) just back of him at 1:19:51.

Forty-five started and all but two finished, Germany’s Christopher Linke DNFed after 12K, Guatemala’s Jose Barrondo saw the dreaded red DQ paddle after 14K.

USA champion Nick Christie hit midway in 42:34 and came home in 45:54 for a 1:28:28 in 31st place. Teammate Dan Nehnevaj struggled across in 1:43:07 and 43rd place.

Christie — and several of his 20K colleagues — will return to action in next Friday’s 35K, the new event on the Worlds program, which supplants the 50K, which had been on the slate since ’83.

“We can do a lot better than we are now,” Christie, a Central Methodist (Missouri) graduate, said of America’s long-lagging walking prospects,

“We don’t have high school programs (other than Maine, and a handful of local others); other than the NAIA, it’s not in college programs; we could use some national training programs, we could use a lot more support, we could do a lot of things,” said Christie. “And all that doesn’t happen overnight.”


MEN’S 20K WALK RESULTS

(July 15; 1-kilometer loop)

(temperature 82F/28C; humidity 38–35%)

1. Toshikazu Yamanishi (Jpn) 1:19:07 (20:12, 20:21 [40:33], 19:24 [59:57], 19:10) (40:33/38:34);

2. Koki Ikeda (Jpn) 1:19:14 (40:33/38:41);

3. Perseus Karlström (Swe) 1:19:18 (40:33/38:45);

4. Samuel Gathimba (Ken) 1:19:25 (40:34/38:51);

5. Brian Pintado (Ecu) 1:19:34 PR (40:33/39:01);

6. Caio Bonfim (Bra) 1:19:51 (40:35/39:16);

7. Álvaro Martín (Spa) 1:20:19 (40:33/39:46);

8. Hiroto Jusho (Jpn) 1:20:39 (40:33/40:06);

9. Luís Alberto Amezcua (Spa) 1:20:44; 10. César Rodríguez (Per) 1:20:59; 11. David Hurtado (Ecu) 1:21:11; 12. Wayne Snyman (SA) 1:21:23; 13. Kaihua Wang (Chn) 1:21:41; 14. Lihong Cui (Chn) 1:22:17; 15. Francesco Fortunato (Ita) 1:22:50; 16. Diego García (Spa) 1:23:21; 17. Declan Tingay (Aus) 1:23:28; 18. Andrés Olivas (Mex) 1:23:36; 19. Rhydian Cowley (Aus) 1:23:37; 20. Aleksi Ojala (Fin) 1:23:40; 21. José Ortíz (Gua) 1:23:48; 22. Eider Arévalo (Col) 1:24:32; 23. Jun Zhang (Chn) 1:24:35; 23. Jordy Jiménez (Ecu) 1:24:35; 25. Julio César Salazar (Mex) 1:25:16; 26. Miroslav Úradník (Svk) 1:25:40; 27. José Oswaldo Calel (Gua) 1:26:24; 28. Georgiy Sheiko (Kaz) 1:26:40;

29. Eiki Takahashi (Jpn) 1:26:46; 30. Matheus Gabriel Correa (Bra) 1:27:31; 31. Nick Christie (US) 1:28:28; 32. Gianluca Picchiottino (Ita) 1:28:33; 33. Kyle Swan (Aus) 1:28:43; 34. Byeong-Kwang Choe (SK) 1:28:56; 35. Quentin Rew (NZ) 1:29:19; 36. Luca Mazzo (Bra) 1:29:32; 37. Dominik Černý (Svk) 1:29:41; 38. Juan Manuel Cano (Arg) 1:29:47; 39. David Kenny (Ire) 1:31:23; 40. Sandeep Kumar Sangwan (Ind) 1:31:58; 41. Luis Campos (Per) 1:34:02; 42. Jesus Calderon (Mex) 1:35:43; 43. Dan Nehnevaj (US) 1:43:07;… dq—José Alejandro Barrondo (Gua);… dnf—Christopher Linke (Ger).

(leader splits: Karlström 20:11, Yamanishi 40:33, 59:57)