After a near two decade-long wait, Italy has another gold medallist at the World Athletics Championships.
Not since Giuseppe Gibilisco in the pole vault in 2003 had an Italian athlete stepped on the highest rung of the podium but Massimo Stano prevailed in a close and tense first staging of the 35km race walk in Oregon on Sunday (24).
Stano was one of Italy’s five gold medallist at the Tokyo Olympics last summer when he won the 20km race walk in Sapporo and the 30-year-old policeman amply demonstrated he has the endurance alongside the speed by claiming victory in 2:23:14, the second fastest time in history.
Stano bided his time in the leading pack before making what would prove to be the winning move as the bell chimed to signify the last lap on the Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard. The gap to Masatora Kawano opened almost instantaneously but his Japanese pursuer made a dogged and determined effort in the late stages to reel the Italian back in.
The gold medal went to Stano in 2:23:14 although his winning margin was reduced to a mere one second with an exhausted Kawano collapsing in a heap across the finish-line in an Asian record of 2:23:15.
Stano looked a considerably more composed and equaminious figure but the Italian was also right on the limit of his physical capabilities as he told FIDAL afterwards.
“In the last five kilometres I don't know where I found the energy, because I felt almost faint. But I wanted to win so much that I said 'you can pass out after the finish!'
“I never really felt in crisis, I was always able to react, we trained a lot in suffering, and therefore today's suffering was more than known. It didn't scare me,” said Stano, who turns his focus to the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships next month when he will contest the 20km race walk.
The imposing figure of Perseus Karlstrom replicated his bronze medal-winning performance from the 20km race walk in the longer version of the event.
As is becoming customary, Karlstrom crossed the line in 2:23:44 to ensure the bronze medal, sporting a mock Swedish viking hat and a Swedish flag before succumbing to tears. Karlstrom jointly becomes the most successful Swedish athlete in World Athletics Championships history alongside Carolina Kluft and Kajsa Bergqvist with three medals.
“When I got here, I knew I was in damn good shape. I knew I could fight for medals in both races. I don't know what kind of tears it is. It's double medal tears,” he said.