World Champs Women’s 35K Walk — Pérez Wraps Spain Gold Sweep

While both the 35K event and a 2-race women’s walk program are relatively new developments, Mária Pérez & Álvaro Martín’s double-double for Spain was historically unique. (CLAUS ANDERSEN)

THE “POCKET ROCKET” was magnificently metronomic. Again. No, not sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce taking on a new challenge. Rather racewalking’s compact mover. For the second time in 4 days, 5-foot-1 (1.78), Mária Pérez, the pride of greater Granada — and all of Spain beyond — quick-stepped her way to “medalla de oro” glory.

Her 1:26:51 victory in the 20K on Sunday had been relatively narrow — just 25 seconds. But her 35K win on Thursday was dramatic and decisive. The 2:38:40 it took her to negotiate 35 loops of the  single-K circuit was a walkaway.

Crossing the orange-carpeted finish line a full 2:12 ahead of walker-up Kimberly García — who’d won the inaugural edition of this event last year in Oregon — she clipped 36 seconds off the Peruvian pedestrian’s meet record.

But no one in WA officialdom can really tell you if that 2:38:40 will be challenged at Worlds in the years ahead. Explanation: longer-distance racewalking at the sport’s highest levels has arrived at a crossroad. Last year’s Eugene women’s 35K had supplanted the 50K, which had been held 2017–19.

The Paris ’24 Olympic Games, though, will have neither a 50K nor a 35K – but rather a marathon distance mixed-sex relay.

If that experiment works well, we’re apt to see it at the Tokyo Worlds of ’25. If not well, not even Seb Coe can predict what future major champs long walk events will be slated.

But this one was about the here-and-now. The 27-year-old Pérez gunned it from the 7 a.m. starting gun of the event staged concurrently with the men’s 35K, and was startlingly consistent. Her opening K was 4:50, her second 4:40, and she stayed in that groove throughout.

Gradually shaking every challenger, she went through 10K in 46:44, 20K in 1:32:41, and that’s where she really floored it. Circuits in 4:15, 4:18, 4:13 from 26–28 put her well clear of García, and everyone else. About the only question came during kilo 34. Miscalculating it as her final loop, she tossed her hat to the crowd, grabbed a Spanish flag and sported a golden smile. No problem, though. She simply recalibrated for her 35th lap, strolled around in 4:48, grabbed another flag, and this time it really was official.

Defender García, 29, claimed a worthy silver in 2:40:52, with Greek veteran Antigóni Drisbióti, all of 39, landing bronze in 2:43:22.

“I never could have thought it was possible to win two golds, but the hard work and pain paid off,” Perez told media. An achy hamstring after the 20K had given her some doubts about the 35K, four days later. But she shrugged it off and raced home regally.

The big win by the short star completed Spain’s unprecedented 4-for-4, man-woman sweep of Worlds walk golds. She termed it “a huge achievement not only for me, but for the whole Spanish team.”

Slovakia’s Dominik Černý (19th in the men’s race) and Hana Burzalová (28th in this one) weren’t close to the podium but may have been the day’s biggest winners. Moments after Burzalová crossed the line, there was Černý — down on a knee, extending an engagement ring. Weary-legged and all, Burzalova, of course, said “yes.”

Team USA fielded a full threesome and 7-time Worlds veteran Maria Michta-Coffey (24th, 3:01:42) and Miranda Melville (35th, 3:09:41) led them. But Stephanie Casey had technique problems and wound up on the DQ list.

How’s this for gender equity? Pérez finished faster than 8 men.


(August 24; 1000m loop)

1. Mária Pérez (Spa) 2:38:40 (x, 3 W)

(23:39, 23:05 [46:44], 22:57 [69:41], 23:00 [1:32:41], 22:01 [1:54:42], 21:19 [2:16:01], 22:39);

2. Kimberly García (Per) 2:40:52 (x, 10 W)

(23:39, 23:07 [46:46], 22:56 [69:42], 23:02 [1:32:44], 22:22 [1:55:06], 22:40 [2:17:46], 23:06);

3. Antigóni Drisbióti (Gre) 2:43:22

(23:39, 23:06 [46:45], 22:56 [69:41], 23:06 [1:32:47], 22:54 [1:55:41], 23:21 [2:19:02], 24:20);

4. Viviane Lyra (Bra) 2:44:40 PR;

5. Cristina Montesinos (Spa) 2:45:32 PR;

6. Evelin Inga (Per) 2:46:18 PR;

7. Serena Sonoda (Jpn) 2:46:32;

8. Olga Chojecka (Pol) 2:46:48 PR;

9. Magaly Bonilla (Ecu) 2:47:09; 10. Tereza Ďurdiaková (CzR) 2:49:06 PR; 11. Xueying Bai (Chn) 2:49:34; 12. Alejandra Ortega (Mex) 2:50:44 PR; 13. Raquel González (Spa) 2:51:53; 14. Masumi Fuchise (Jpn) 2:52:57; 15. Federica Curiazzi (Ita) 2:53:27; 16. Viktória Madarász (Hun) 2:53:30; 17. Johana Ordóñez (Ecu) 2:54:58; 18. Agnieszka Ellward (Pol) 2:56:51 PR; 19. Sara Vitiello (Ita) 2:57:00; 20. Vasylyna Vitovshchyk (Ukr) 2:57:24; 21. Allanah Pitcher (Aus) 2:57:55; 22. Rita Récsei (Hun) 2:59:37; 23. Annabel Orjuela (Col) 2:59:58;

24. Maria Michta-Coffey (US) 3:01:22 (x, 10 A);

25. Mária Czaková (Svk) 3:01:53; 26. Kiriakí Filtisákou (Gre) 3:02:16; 27. Nicole Colombi (Ita) 3:02:29; 28. Hana Burzalová (Svk) 3:02:47; 29. Bianka Dittrich (Ger) 3:03:05; 30. Ilse Guerrero (Mex) 3:03:41; 31. Ema Hačundová (Svk) 3:05:43; 32. Karla Jaramillo (Ecu) 3:05:55; 33. Austėja Kavaliauskaitė (Lit) 3:08:11; 34. Alina Tsviliy (Ukr) 3:09:23; 35. Miranda Melville (US) 3:09:41; 36. Elianay Pereira (Bra) 3:16:11;

… dnf—Erica de Sena (Bra), Ólga Fiáska (Gre), Inês Henriques (Por), Maocuo Li (Chn), Mihaela Popa (Rom), Shenjie Qieyang (Chn), Galina Yakusheva (Kaz), Ana Veronica Rodean (Rom);

… dq—Stephanie Casey (US), Katarzyna Zdziebło (Pol).

(leader 5Ks: Zdzieblo 23:39; Qieyang 46:44, 69:41; Pérez 1:32:41, 1:54:42, 2:16:01)

(best-ever mark-for-place: 11)