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Peru's Leon dashes China's hope of winning 1st gold at Oregon worlds

Gold medalist Kimberly Garcia Leon (C) of Peru, silver medalist Katarzyna Zdzieblo (L) of Poland and bronze medalist Qieyang Shijie of China attend the awarding ceremony of women's 20km race walk at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 in Eugene, Oregon, the United States, July 15, 2022. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

China's attempt to win the first gold at the Oregon World Athletics Championships was dashed by Peru's Kimberly Garcia Leon, who won the women's 20km race walk title in a personal best and national record of 1:26:58.

EUGENE, July 15 (Xinhua) -- With four athletes in competition including two former Olympic champions, China looked sure to take the first gold medal of the Oregon world athletics championships. Still, Kimberly Garcia Leon surprised everyone by winning the women's 20km race walk title.

Leon walked side by side with Qieyang Shijie, the London Olympic champion, for 13 kilometers before pulling away with 5km to go, winning the gold medal in a personal best and national record of 1:26:58.

Qieyang, also the silver medal winner three years ago in Doha, ran out of steam and had to settle for the bronze in 1:27:56. The second place was taken by Poland's Katarzyna Zdzieblo in 1:27:31.

Liu Hong, the Rio Olympic titlist and four-time world champion, finished fifth.

Kimberly Garcia Leon (L) of Peru competes with Qieyang Shijie of China during the women's 20km race walkat the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 in Eugene, Oregon, the United States, July 15, 2022. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

"I cannot believe it now," said Leon. "In this moment, I think I am the happiest woman in the world."

Leon has every reason to celebrate because it was the first medal and first gold for Peru at the world championships.

Qieyang's coach Sandro Damilano shook his head in disbelief, saying, "I don't know the reason. Qieyang has never lost to Garcia Leon before. She beat her (Leon) three times in Europe this season."

The 31-year-old Qieyang said that it was impossible to catch up with Leon. "I am too tired," she said. "I still need to improve myself."

Qieyang, who will also compete in the 35km event in a week, said that preparing for two events might be the reason.

"I am slightly disappointed, but I am satisfied with my performance," she said.

The 35-year-old Liu raised both her hands in celebration despite failing to win her fifth world title in her seventh world championships.

"I have tried my best. I finished the race, so I deserve to celebrate," she said.

Liu, who won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympic Games, said she had planned to rest for the whole year and skip the world championships.

"But after the winter, I felt good and told myself I should return to training. I just resumed training for about three months, so I am satisfied with the result."

The other two Chinese athletes, Ma Zhenxia and Wu Quanming, finished 10th and 13th respectively.

"Qieyang and I will have to make tough decisions about whether to carry on or retire. Obviously, the youngsters will take some time to become competitive in major events," Liu said. (by Wang Zijiang) ■