Athletics: Toshikazu Yamanishi defends the men’s 20 km walk world title

Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi wins the men’s 20 kilometer race walk at the World Championships in Athletics in Eugene, Oregon on July 15, 2022. (Pool Photo/Kyodo)

EUGENE, Ore. (Kyodo) — Toshikazu Yamanishi won his second consecutive world title in the men’s 20 kilometer walk Friday and became the first Japanese track and field athlete to win back-to-back world championship gold.

Fellow countryman and silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, Koki Ikeda, clinched silver as Japan won its first medals at the ongoing world championships in Eugene, Oregon. Yamanishi finished third at the Tokyo Games.

Male hammer thrower Koji Murofushi was the last Japanese athlete to win an individual medal at back-to-back world championships when he won silver in 2001 and bronze in 2003.

Yamanishi clocked 1 hour, 19 minutes and 7 seconds as he led the field from the start before breaking free of Ikeda on the final lap to win by 7 seconds. Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom took bronze, 4 seconds behind Ikeda.

“It was really hot and it was also a race with a lot to think about with my rivals all being tough and not giving up,” said Yamanishi, 26, a Kyoto native, who was the favorite in the Tokyo Games.

“It was decided by the slimmest of margins, but I’m happy to have emerged victorious one way or another.”

Ikeda vowed to come back stronger as second place left him with mixed feelings.

“I’m happy but also frustrated to have lost to Yamanishi,” said the 24-year-old. “We have international competitions coming up next year and the year after and I hope to compete with him for medals there too.”

With a sixth place finish, Nanako Fujii was the highest ranked Japanese in the women’s 20km walk won by Kimberly Garcia Leon of Peru.