The Russians may have been left behind in the medals races at the London Olympics, but they continue to come up with some exceptional feats like when Sergey Kirdyapkin clinched the grueling 50km race walk title with an Olympic-record time to boot.
On an unusually hot day, when several athletes collapsed due to exhaustion, the 32-year-old Kirdyapkin -- twice world champion -- clocked 3hrs 35min 59sec to break the Olympic record.
He pushed Australia's Jared Tallent, who clinched his second consecutive Games silver, to second spot. China conquered another frontier when Si Tianfeng won his country's maiden medal -- a bronze -- in the punishing race by finishing 1min 17sec behind the champion.
The rigors of the race on a baking hot Saturday was too much for Japan's Koichiro Morioka, who had to be treated for dehydration and exhaustion at the finish line. He ended up 10th. Kirdyapkin's triumph is the first by a Russian after 1992, when Andrey Perlov had won the title for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
The Russian was an overwhelming favorite after Beijing Games gold-medalist, Italy's Alex Schwazer, was dropped from the country's contingent before the Games for alleged doping. A subdued Kirdyapkin was quoted as telling the media that, "I came here to win the gold medal, breaking the Olympic record just happened."
Australia's Tallent said that despite not winning a gold, he was content as he had three medals in his kitty -- two 50km silver medals and 20km bronze in Beijing. Tallent and 2007 world champion, Nathan Deakes, took the early lead along with 10 others, including Kirdyapkin and current world champion Sergey Bakulin.
Around the halfway mark, the lead group had shrunk to eight, with Deakes and Tallent still retaining the first and second positions followed by the Russians. But it was Si who came into his own after the 30km mark, and erased the 20-second gap between himself and the lead pack, which had now come down to five.
Ireland's Robert Heffernan eclipsed his country's national mark on way to finishing fourth.
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