China won the gold and silver in the men’s 20 km walk as Wang Zhen won with a time of 1:19:14. Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith won the bronze in a tightly contested race. For India, it was a race to forget for two of the three walkers who were disqualified in the early stages of the race.
India’s Gurmeet Singh was the first walker to be disqualified and had not even reached the 6-kilometre mark. He was at the back of the pack and was looking to increase his pace when he was warned for ‘Loss of Contact’ and a bent knee.
In walking, both feet cannot be off the ground at the same time. One foot must always be in contact with the ground at all times. Bent knees are also cautioned if the judges feel they are not walking. Unfortunately, 31-year-old Gurmeet received two warnings for loss of contact and a third for a bent knee leading to his disqualification.
Manish Singh was setting the pace in the early stages and was in the lead pack and, at the 4-kilometre mark, both Manish and Ganapathi Krishnan were in the top 10. But Ganapathi started falling behind two kilometres later.
India suffered its second blow before the 10-kilometre mark when Ganapathi Krishnan was also disqualified. The 27-year-old received three warnings – all for loss of contact – and was immediately disqualified.
Manish Singh was in the lead pack for most of the race
Manish Singh was the lone ranger for the Indians and managed to move up to the pack in third place behind Great Britain’s Tom Bosworth and Japan’s Daisuke Matsunaga who were out in front. But the favourites – namely Spain’s Miguel Angel Lopez and China’s Chen Ding (the Olympic record holder) and Zhen Wang – were yet to make a move although Wang was alongside Manish at the halfway mark.
Around the 14-kilometre mark, Manish started falling behind as the chasing pack pounced. Lopez moved up a few places to 16th while Bosworth lost the lead to China’s Zelin Cai. Zhen Wang had also caught up and was two second behind Zelin.
With two kilometres to go, Wang moved into the lead while Zelin fell to second place. Bosworth had lost his steam following a warning and fell to eighth place while Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith moved up to third. Manish had fallen to 18th place and 20 seconds behind the leaders – and out of medal contention.
Zhen Wang finished first with a time of 1:19:14 while his compatriot Zelin Cai finished second with a time of 1:19:26 – 12 seconds behind. Dane Bird-Smith finished third with a time of 1:19:37. Manish Singh finished 13th with a time of 1:21:21. Meanwhile, Lopez finished 11th while Ding fell away on the home stretch and finished a lowly 35th.
Manuel Esteban Soto