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2008 Olympic Games Beijing - Women's 20 km walk



Host City: Beijing, China  
Date Started: August 21, 2008  
Date Finished: August 21, 2008  
(Competitors: 50; Countries: 32)  
    Venue(s): Beijing National Stadium, Beijing
Overview by IAAF    2008_olympic_stadium.jpg
Kaniskina, having set a world best of 1:25:11 earlier in the season, was more than a minute faster than any other entrant, and she set off in the pouring rain as if that margin was her aim for the day. Each of her 2Km splits up to the 16Km point was covered in 8:40 or under, and by that time she had a lead of 69 seconds. Behind her, Rita Turova (BLR) led the field, and was 10 seconds ahead of Plätzer after 16Km. European Champion Turova crumbled at that point, losing 38 seconds to the Norwegian in the next two kilometres, and she eventually finished 11th. Plätzer went on to repeat her Sydney silver, five seconds ahead of the fast-closing Rigaudo and ten clear of Liu, who had the quickest last 2Km of all (8:30). Reigning champion Athansía Tsoumeléka placed ninth with a Greek record 1:27:54, but then failed a doping control test for EPO and was eventually suspended for two years up to January 2011
Summary by      
[Olga Kaniskina] (RUS) had won the 2007 World Championships and predicted she would win the gold medal in Beijing. She led the pack out of the Bird’s Nest and was a comfortable winner of this race. She was ahead at every checkpoint and was never really challenged, coasting the final circuit to win by 36 seconds. Norway’s [Kjersti Plätzer] took the silver medal after being well back at 10K, and still in third with two kilometers remaining. But she finished strongly as did Italy’s [Elisa Rigaudo], the bronze medalist. The pace was fast as the first 12 finishers broke the previous Olympic Record.


Prior to this event, the existing world and Olympic records were as follows:

World record  Olimpiada Ivanova (RUS) 1:25:41 Helsinki, Finland 7 August 2005
Olympic record  Wang Liping (CHN) 1:29:05 Sydney, Australia 28 September 2000
The women's 20 km walk event at the 2008 Olympic Games took place on August 21 at the Beijing Olympic Stadium. The qualifying standards were 1:33.30 (A standard) and 1:38.00 (B standard).

Kaniskina builds on Osaka success and walks to Olympic record


The head of the Mordovian government Nikolay Merkushkin may wish he had never thought of the idea of rewarding Olga Kaniskina after her IAAF World Championships win in Osaka. On that occasion she was given the keys to a two-room apartment in her home town of Saransk, capital of Mordovia, so what can she expect this time round?

What prize?

Before she came out to Beijing, Kaniskina asked the president what an Olympic victory was worth, but he was clearly expecting her to do well because this time he was not ready to commit himself: “I haven’t thought about it yet,” was the answer.

Had she heard from him after her victory on a rainy morning in Beijing? “No, but I’ll learn what he is going to give me when I get back home,” she said.

One call she did get was from her brother who is a kind of talisman to the 23-year-old. He sent her a good luck message before her win in Osaka and this morning when she woke up, a new message was waiting: “He wished me good luck,” she said. “But the good-luck charm does not always work,” she explained. “Sometimes he’s abrasive, but he is special to me and it’s important for me to hear from him.”

Apart from that all the family – “I’ve got an extensive one” – were watching on television back home.

Mathematics is the future

Certainly, if you are going to be a race walker, Saransk, around 650km east of Moscow, is one of the best places in Russia to come from. It has one of the only two Olympic race walking centres in Russia – the other is Cherboksary – and last year an indoor track and field facility was opened as well as a race-walking course in a park area.

Kaniskina is the only athlete in her family, but her brother practised Greco-Roman wrestling and an uncle was a boxer. She has been race walking for ten years, but has only trained seriously for the last four.

In the meantime, her other interest, mathematics, is on hold. She is on sabbatical from the state university of Mordovia where she is in her fourth year, but her studies have taken a back seat of late: “My professors know that I take a serious approach to my studies, but at the moment I only work when I have time. But in the future I shall devote my life to mathematics. There is no doubt about that,” she said.

Among her hobbies, she cites reading old French authors as one of her favourite pastimes.

One thing that Kaniskina appreciated was the torrential rain that fell during the walk.

After days of hot, humid weather, the rain came as a relief. Last year in Osaka she found it too hot, “but the weather was much better here,” she commented.

Wanted to walk faster

Nonetheless, despite demolishing the Olympic record by more than two and a half minutes, she was “disappointed with the time. The problem was that I could not go as fast as I wanted, but it was enough under the circumstances,” she said.

Two years ago, the novice Russian captured silver at the European Championships in Gothenburg. Then she went one better at the World Championships. Just how important was the win in Osaka as a prelude to events in Beijing?

“The one thing winning the World championships gave me was confidence,” she said. “However, winning a global title is easier than holding it, but it acts as a springboard for working harder. It makes you more determined to hang on to what you’ve got.”

Now that she has Olympic gold safely around her neck, she will take some time to take a look around Beijing before heading off back home for the meeting with the president.

Maybe a car would not be a bad idea to go with the flat? “No, I don’t need a car,” said Kaniskina. “I prefer to walk.”

Michael Butcher for the IAAF

20 km walk Women     Final 21 August      
Rank Mark     Athlete Country NOC Birth Date Records
1 1.26.31     Olga Kaniskina Russia RUS 19 Jan 85  OR
2 1.27.07     Kjersti Tysse Plätzer Norway NOR 18 Jan 72 NR
3 1.27.12     Elisa Rigaudo Italy ITA 17 Jun 80  
4 1.27.17     Liu Hong China CHN 12 May 87  
5 1.27.25     María Vasco Spain ESP 26 Dec 75 NR
6 1.27.44     Beatriz Pascual Spain ESP 9 May 82  
7 1.27.45     Olive Loughnane Ireland IRL 14 Jan 76  
8 1.27.46     Ana Cabecinha Portugal POR 29 Apr 84 NR
9 1.28.14     Vera Santos Portugal POR 3 Dec 81  
10 1.28.26     Ryta Turava Belarus BLR 28 Dec 80  
11 1.28.28     Tatyana Sibileva Russia RUS 17 May 80  
12 1.29.08     Shi Na China CHN 17 Feb 81  
13 1.29.43     Mayumi Kawasaki Japan JPN 10 May 80  
14 1.30.19     Sabine Krantz Germany GER 6 Feb 81  
15 1.30.26     Sonata Milušauskaitė Lithuania LTU 31 Aug 73 NR
16 1.30.31     Vira Zozulya Ukraine UKR 31 Aug 70  
17 1.30.52     María José Poves Spain ESP 16 Mar 78  
18 1.31.03     Kristina Saltanovič Lithuania LTU 20 Feb 75  
19 1.31.17     Jane Saville Australia AUS 5 Nov 74  
20 1.31.19     Sylwia Chirat-Korzeniowska Poland POL 25 Apr 80  
21 1.31.33     Jo Atkinson Great Britain GBR 17 Jan 85 NR
22 1.31.56     Melanie Seeger Germany GER 8 Jan 77  
23 1.32.16     Ana Maria Groza Romania ROU 1 Jun 76  
24 1.32.19     Evaggelía Xinoú Greece GRE 22 Nov 81  
25 1.32.21     Sachiko Konishi Japan JPN 4 Feb 82  
26 1.32.57     Zuzana Schindlerová Czech Republic CZE 25 Apr 87  
27 1.33.02     Claire Tallent Australia AUS 7 Jun 81  
28 1.33.55     Kim Mi-Jung South Korea KOR 10 Jun 79  
29 1.34.03     Svetlana Tolstaya Kazakhstan KAZ 9 Aug 71  
30 1.34.15     Joanne Dow United States USA 19 Mar 64  
31 1.34.33     Zuzana Malíková Slovakia SVK 2 Aug 83  
32 1.35.33     Sniazhana Yurchanka Belarus BLR 1 Aug 84  
33 1.35.50     Nadiya Borovska Ukraine UKR 25 Feb 81  
34 1.36.18     Sandra Zapata Colombia COL 3 Feb 77  
35 1.36.26     Johana Ordóñez Ecuador ECU 12 Dec 87  
36 1.36.46     Tânia Spindler Brazil BRA 10 Apr 77  
37 1.36.52     Verónica Colindres El Salvador ESA 9 Jul 86  
38 1.37.03     Edina Füsti Hungary HUN 24 Jun 82  
39 1.37.59     Kellie Wapshott Australia AUS 23 Aug 81  
40 1.39.11     Déspina Zapounídou Greece GRE 5 Oct 85  
41 1.41.03     Jolanta Dukure Latvia LAT 20 Sep 79  
42 1.44.13     Evelyn Núñez Guatemala GUA 9 Apr 71  
  DQ     Athanasía Tsoumeléka Greece GRE    
  DNF     Susana Feitor Portugal POR 28 Jan 75  
  DNF     Yuan Yufang Malaysia MAS 1 Feb 76  
  DQ     Elena Ginko Belarus BLR 30 Jul 76  
  DQ     Tatyana Kalmykova Russia RUS 10 Jan 90  
  DQ     Yang Mingxia China CHN 13 Jan 90  


Intermediate Athlete Country Mark
4 km 1. Olga Kaniskina  Russia 17:00
2. María Vasco  Spain +0:27
3. Vera Santos  Portugal s.t.
4. Ryta Turava  Belarus s.t.
5. Elisa Rigaudo  Italy s.t.
8 km 1. Olga Kaniskina  Russia 34:09
2. Kjersti Plätzer  Norway +0:41
3. Ryta Turava  Belarus s.t.
4. Tatyana Kalmykova  Russia +0:42
5. Beatriz Pascual  Spain s.t.
12 km 1. Olga Kaniskina  Russia 51:19
2. Ryta Turava  Belarus +0:41
3. Kjersti Plätzer  Norway +0:49
4. María Vasco  Spain s.t.
5. Tatyana Kalmykova  Russia +0:56
16 km 1. Olga Kaniskina  Russia 1:08:31
2. Ryta Turava  Belarus +0:59
3. Kjersti Plätzer  Norway +1:09
4. María Vasco  Spain s.t.
5. Hong Liu  China +1:20




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