World champion Yang wins season debut at China’s Race Walk Grand Prix

March 09 13:32 2023

Yang Jiayu won the 20km event in the first leg of the Chinese National Race Walk Grand Prix, setting a world leading time of one hour, 26 minutes and 41 seconds.

World champion Yang Jiayu opened her 2023 season with a convincing 20km victory in the first leg of the Chinese National Race Walk Grand Prix here on Sunday, with the event also serving as a qualifier for the 2023 World Championships.

27-year-old Yang, winner of the 20km race walk event at the 2017 World Championships, emerged triumphant from a last-5km duel with 2022 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships winner Ma Zhenxia, setting a world leading time of one hour, 26 minutes and 41 seconds.

Former youth and junior world champion Ma was two seconds behind to settle for second place. Four-time world champion Liu Hong took third place in 1:27:35.

The top three finishers all met the entry standard for the 2023 World Championships in Budapest in August. According to the selection mechanism of the Chinese Athletics Association, two of the three athletes can earn the chance to compete at this year’s Hangzhou Asian Games, based on their performances in Budapest.

“My primary goal for the race is to secure a berth in the national team squad for the World Championships, so I am satisfied with my performance. I need to save my best form for the second half of the year instead of giving everything too early,” Yang said, referring to the last time she raced at Huangshan in 2021, when she set a world record of 1:23:49 but subsequently failed to live up to expectations at that year’s Tokyo Olympics.

In the men’s 20km race earlier on Sunday, Wang Zhaozhao, 10km runner-up at the 2018 Race Walking Team Championships, pushed ahead to seize the lead after 18km and never looked back until crossing the line in 1:19:40, cutting 30 seconds off his personal best.

Niu Wenchao clocked 1:19:59 to finish second, followed by Qian Haifeng in 1:20:20. But since Qian failed to meet the World Championships entry standard of 1:20:10, the last spot for China’s men’s 20km race walk team remains up for grabs.

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