Maria Perez completed a Spanish double in the 20 kilometres race walk at the World Athletics Championships after comfortably beating Australia’s Jemima Montag to win the women’s event on Sunday, with Antonella Palmisano of Italy taking bronze.
Defending champion Kimberly Garcia Leon of Peru led a breakaway group that at the halfway mark included Perez, Montag, Olympic champion Palmisano and Yang Jiayu of China, the 2017 winner and current world record holder.
But Perez,like compatriot Alvaro Martin in the men’s event on the opening day of the championships on Saturday, pulled away with around 5km remaining and crossed the line in one hour, 26 minutes and 51 seconds.
The 27-year-old finished 25 seconds ahead of Montag and became the first Spanish woman to win the event at the world championships.
“I cannot even put into words how important it was to me to win this gold,” Perez, the 35km world record holder, said. “Victory in this distance was my main goal for Budapest … I put all my power into this race.”
Perez was disqualified from the 20km walk at last year’s worlds as well as the 2022 European Championships, and finished fourth at the Tokyo Games.
“The 20km was always difficult for me as I had technical issues and was often disqualified,” Perez said. “This last lap was extremely fast, but I had to give my maximum … I got a hamstring cramp.
“Now I need some consultations and medical examination from our doctors whether it will be possible for me to compete at 35km.”
Montag shattered her own national record with a time of 1:27:16, improving on her fourth-placed finish from the 2022 world championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Palmisano posted a season’s best 1:27:26 to finish third while Garcia Leon fell off the pace and came fourth, a further sixth seconds adrift of Palmisano.
The men’s and women’s 35km race walk will take place on Thursday.