Palmisano makes it two golds in two days for Italy as she beats Colombia’s Sandra Arenas and defending champion Liu Hong from China
Italy’s Antonella Palmisano claimed top spot in the women’s 20km victory on Friday in Sapporo, producing a sensational performance and finishing in a time of 1:29:12 as she made it two from two for Italy in the 20km race walks at these Games.
Boosted by the victory for her countryman Massimo Stano in the men’s event, it was redemption for the 30-year-old, who finished in a heartbreaking fourth place in Rio five years ago.
Her victory also sees her become the first Italian woman to win the event and gave Italy their fourth athletics gold on an incredible summer for the mediterranean nation.
Silver went to Sandra Arenas of Colombia in 1:29:37 and drama in the late stages saw defending champion Liu Hong grasp bronze from the hands of Brazil’s Erica Rocha de Sena, who could only watch on in despair from the penalty box.
In another searingly hot day in Sapporo, athletes had to battle temperatures of more than 30C and 54% humidity. Seemingly unperturbed, Palmisano kept her cool and was in the mix early on in the race.
At six kilometres a lead group of 16 had emerged, including the Chinese trio of Qieyang Shijie, Liu Hong and Yang Jiayu, who had made clear their ambitions of a medal sweep – the first in the event’s history.
The lead group was soon whittled down and, as athletes began to drop off, seven walkers remained in the mix at 15km. With Qieyang Shijie no longer able to keep up with the group, the Chinese sweep was no longer on the cards.
By 17km, Palimasano had taken control and the prospects for an Italian 20km double became evident. Now four seconds ahead of the pack, she remained cool and rode the Italian momentum all the way to the line.
Her second 10km was covered in 43:16 after a 45:57 first half with most of the acceleration coming in her last three 2km laps of 8:41, 8:15 and 8:12.
“Massimo’s gold medal gave me a lot of extra power,” said Palimasano, who turned 30 on the day of her race. “He is my team-mate and we are part of the same training group.
“In the countdown to the Olympics we both believed very much we could do it. We (both) come from very small towns in the south of Italy. We wanted to do something big, we have the same mentality.”
Silver was in the hands of Sandra Arenas but the battle for bronze raged on. Yang Jiayu had already been sidelined with three penalty cards and, just as Brazil’s Erica Rocha de Sena began to dream of a podium finish, she too found herself in the penalty box.
Liu Hong took her opportunity and came over the line in 1:29:57 to claim the bronze to add to her gold from Rio 2016 and bronze from London 2012.
After their penalties, Sena and Jiayu Yang resumed and finished 11th and 12th and their 1:31:39 and 1:31:54 times would have put them in the medals but for their two minute penalties.