The final two events of the IAAF World Race Walking Teams Championships were held in humid conditions in Taicang China today. Australia fielded full teams in both events but it was a challenging day for the green and gold squad.
In a difficult day for the Australian Men’s 20 kilometre team, Rhydian Cowley (VIC) walked a cleverly-paced race, moving up more than 10 places through each 5km split, capped off by advancing seven places in the final 5km to place 47th (1:28:54).
Fellow teammates Adam Garganis (VIC) and Brendon Reading (ACT) finished 62nd and 63rd respectively, recording times of 1:31:20 and 1:31:25, as rain, thunderstorms, 26-degree temperatures and 86% humidity wreaked havoc on the field. The three finishing Australians placed Australia 13th in the team points competition (172 pts), with team gold awarded to Japan (12 pts).
The two top-ranked race walkers on seasons best entering today’s race, Dane Bird-Smith (QLD) and Michael Hosking (VIC) endured a day of frustration and injury. Bird-Smith had settled into one of the ever-changing lead chase groups, 25th through 10km (41:17), only to have his race ended by what appeared to be a hamstring injury, as the Commonwealth Games champion retired to the side of the road clutching his hamstring.
Hosking passed through 15km in 25th position, splitting 1:03:04 and looking to pick off fading competitors over the final 5km split, only to be disqualified.
Podium honours went to Koki Ikeda (JPN), winning narrowly in 1:21:13, as Kaihua Wang (CHN) claimed silver nine seconds adrift (1:21:22). Massimo Stano (ITA) claimed bronze 11 seconds further back, his finishing time of 1:21:33 grouping the podium in a 20-second bunch.
U20 WOMEN 10KM
Disappointment in the women’s under-20 10km walk as Katie Hayward (Qld) was disqualified near the finish. The race had started well for Hayward who was looking strong in the lead pack of 11 at mid-way, passed in a quick 23:09. She continued to remain in tact with the leaders as they dwindled to seven at 6km. At 7km the pack really split with Hayward then in fifth place. By 8km, she was up to fourth and then equal third ahead of the 9km mark, but she fell foul of the judges, initially with three red cards, she picked up a fourth and was out of the race. Australian race walking legend Jane Saville comforted her at the finish. Hayward leads a terrific crop of junior race walkers emerging and for sure will be back and will have an opportunity to prove her talent on the track at the World U20 Championships in July.
Victorian Rebecca Henderson, who was walking consistently throughout, came home in 16th in massive personal best time of 49:25 - 30 seconds under her previous mark set in 2016. The third Aussie, Phillipa Huse (VIC) finished close behind in 18th place in a time of 50:25. Combined, they placed seventh in the team event with 34 points.
Sean Whipp and David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
Image: Rhydian Cowley (image courtesy of Terry Swan)