Athletics Poland's Tomala wins gold after converting to 50 km on foot

SAPPORO, Japan, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Poland’s Dawid Tomala sailed to victory in the men’s 50k Olympic race with a dominant performance in the second half of the Sapporo race on Friday and topped the podium in his second completed Race race the distance.

The German Jonathan Hilbert won the silver medal and the Canadian Evan Dunfee won bronze.

Tomala, 31, said he switched from the 20km to the 50km distance earlier this year because he was “bored and needed new challenges” and his decision immediately paid off.

“This year changed everything for me because I started 50K for the first time. It’s the second 50 in my life and a gold medal is crazy, isn’t it?” he said.

Tomala’s triumph marked the second surprise race walking gold of the Tokyo Olympics after Italian Massimo Stano won the 20K race the day before for his first victory in a major international race.

Chinese Luo Yadong was in the lead for most of the first third of the race until the field with Tomala caught up with him at the 20 km mark.

Tomala began to distance himself from the crowd on the 30 km long stage and extended his lead to more than three minutes per stage. He finished the race in 3 hours, 50 minutes and eight seconds and was 36 seconds ahead of Hilbert.

Tomala increased the pace despite his large lead, although he took his foot off the gas towards the end, was sure of first place and did not want to jeopardize his victory.

“I had about 15 km to the end and I knew it was possible to lose energy because anything can happen at 50 km. Sometimes you go fast and you can’t finish the race … But at that speed I feel comfortable felt so I tried to run it for as long as I could. “

“But in the end the most important thing was to win that medal, so I slowed down because the gold medal is the gold medal.”

The world record holder and world champion of 2017, Yohann Diniz from France, had hoped for one last chance at Olympic glory. But he dropped out of the race before the 30km mark because he cited fatigue and back pain and said it was one competition too much for the 43-year-old.

“That will be the picture of my career, the ups and downs, and now good luck to the future generation. For me it is over,” he said.

The 50 km run on Friday could have been the last in an Olympics. The event has been removed from the schedule of the 2024 Games in Paris as there is no equivalent race for women.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Adaptation by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Lincoln Feast.

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