LONDON (Reuters) - Russia’s Sergey Kirdyapkin won gold in the men’s 50km race walk at the London Games on Saturday in an Olympic record time of three hours 35 minutes 59 seconds.
The 32-year-old double world champion shaved more than a second off Alex Schwazer’s record of 3:37:09 to finish 54 seconds ahead of Australia’s Jared Tallent, whose time was also inside the previous Olympic record and a personal best.
China’s Si Tianfeng won bronze in a personal best of 3:37:16, adding to Chen Ding’s 20km gold and Wang Zhen’s bronze a week ago - China’s first men’s race walk medals.
The Russian trio of Kirdyapkin, Igor Erokhin and last year’s world champion Sergey Bakulin were strong medal favourites after Italy’s defending champion Schwazer was excluded from the London Games on Monday for testing positive for EPO.
They were front runners from the start of the 25-lap race, which passed London’s Buckingham Palace, and with 10km to go were leading after reeling in Si who had broken away to an 18-second lead.
Si’s injection of pace into the race had tired both Erokhin and Bakulin, though, and with another push the Chinese moved back into second behind a determined-looking Kirdyapkin, who kept up a solid pace in the sunshine.
With 30 minutes to go before the finish Tallent, whose wife Claire will compete in the women’s 20km race walk on Saturday, made his move on Si to take second but was unable to ever get close to the Russian leader.
It was Tallent’s second consecutive Olympic silver medal.
Before Saturday’s race Kirdyapkin, who did not finish the 50km event in Beijing four years ago, had already set this year’s leading time (3:38:08) when he won the 2012 World Race Walking Cup in May.
Ireland’s Robert Heffernan set a national record time to finish fourth ahead of Erokhin and Bakulin after an impressive late surge through the field.
Editing by Clare Fallon