02/08/2021   Thursday in Sapporo the men's 20km of the Olympic Games




Of all the athletics disciplines in the Olympic program, the men's 20km walk (to which we also add the 50km) presents the best chance of a gold medal for the host nation. In fact such is their strength and depth in this event, it would not be a surprise to see a Japanese climb to the podium.
Since winning the world title in Doha two years ago, world champion Toshikazu Yamanishi has competed sparingly, but has maintained the winning streak that began in March 2019. The incredibly consistent 25-year-old has a record of 1:17:15, which places him fifth in the all-time world rankings and has improved by 1:18 on five occasions, more than any other walker in history.
In his only 20km race last year, he won the Japanese championship in Kobe by a 1:31 lead. He successfully defended that title this year, scoring 1:17:20 and winning by 44 seconds.
In both races, Koki Ikeda and Eiki Takahashi occupied the other places on the podium, effectively securing their places on the Japanese Olympic team in the process. They are also the last two men to beat Yamanishi, in February 2019.
Ikeda, who won the 20km at the 2018 World Team Walking Championships, has a personal best of 1:17:25 and finished sixth at the 2019 World Championships. Takahashi's PB is just a second slower and finished 10th in Doha two years ago.
The athletes of the Rising Sun will compete for the victory, but the competition field is highly competitive.
Other Asian athletes who will contend with the three Japanese for continental leadership are: Wang Kaihua who broke the Chinese record earlier this year with a 1:16:54 world leader, putting him in third place in the all-time world list; 2016 Olympic silver medalist Cai Zelin (season best of 1:17:39) and young Zhang Jun, also with the same personal best of 1:17:39 established earlier this year.
Recall that China boasts the last two Olympic winners in London (Chen Ding) and Rio de Janeiro (Wang Zhen).
There are many European athletes throwing their hat into the ring for a medal.
Let's start with Perseus Karlstrom who has won seven of his last eight 20km races, most of them against international opposition. He set a Swedish record of 1:18:07 in 2019 and in 2020 he won 11 of his 12 races. Sweden has never won an Olympic medal in the men's 20km walk, but Karlstrom could be the athlete to end this drought.
Authorized neutral athlete Vasiliy Mizinov who took silver in Doha and could be in medal contention again in Sapporo. He got an interesting 1:18:45 in Sochi earlier this year.
24-year-old Turkish Salih Korkmaz who likes to force the pace from the early stages, which sometimes leads him to victory, as he did when he set a national record of 1:18:42 earlier this year, but sometimes he struggles to maintain the tempo and has to settle for back-up positions.
Spain have selected a very strong team for this 20km, made up of 2015 world champion Miguel Angel Lopez, European champion Alvaro Martin and European silver medalist Diego Garcia Carrera, who beat Karlstrom in La Coruna last month.
Finally, also the Italian Massimo Stano, greatly improved from a technical point of view in the last two seasons, but in the 2021 season he achieved a season best of only 1:20:30 compared to his personal best of 1:17:45
Outside of Europe we see with interest Eider Arevalo (COL), he too (like Massimo Stano) with a season best of 1:20:24 and a personal best of 1:18:53 and finally the 2017 world bronze medal Caio Bonfim (BRA) with a season best of 1:20:15 and a personal best of 1:18:47
Atmospheric conditions will be the real discriminating factor. A little while ago in Sapporo the following climatic values ​​were recorded.




Some photos of today's training





Vasiliy Mizinov (ANA)




German team




Perseus Karlstrom





Zhang Jun and Liu Hong





Cai Zelin e Qieyang Shenjie





Francesco Fortunato