Veteran Wanjiru seeks to leave memorable mark in race walk

Sunday August 13 2017

Grace Wanjiru (left) on her way to victory in the women's 20km race walk during the World Athletics Championship and Africa Games trials on August 1, 2015 at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Grace Wanjiru (left) on her way to victory in the women's 20km race walk during the World Athletics Championship and Africa Games trials on August 1, 2015 at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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IN LONDON

Africa race walk queen, Grace Wanjiru, is a woman on a mission in London on Sunday.

The London World Championships could be her last major outing for Kenya, and that perhaps explains her burning desire to leave a memorable mark.

The 37-year-old Kenya Defence Forces officer goes into London, her second World Championships, having won six Africa and one Africa Games race walk titles.

She might have achieved a lot in her and stellar race walk career but Wanjiru, who represented Kenya at the Rio Olympic Games, hopes that good showing in London will finally change the world of race walk in Kenya.

“I might take a break from race walking after London but I want to do it in style,” said Wanjiru who finished 38th in the 2011 Daegu World Championships.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist won her sixth Africa Championships 20km race walk title in style, breaking her own six-year-old continental record in a new time of one hour, 30:43 minutes in Durban, South Africa, last year.

That performance saw her seal a place in Team Kenya for the Rio Olympic Games, where she finished 42nd in 1:37:49. The race was won by the 2015 world champion Liu Hong from China in 1:28:35.

“It’s always challenging with every competition since you get to meet new people but I hope to give it my best shot,” said Wanjiru adding that Kenya will not have an impact in the world of race walk if her athletes just compete among themselves in Kenya.

Wanjiru’s contest could turn out to be the most exciting of the four races along The Mall, London. For the first time in six championships, the all-conquering Liu Hong will be absent as the world and Olympic champion was forced to give way to another talented Chinese trio.

But as in-form as Lyu Xiuzhi, Wang Na and Yang Jiayu are, a battle royale awaits Rio Olympics fourth-placed Antonella Palmisano, who finished fifth in 2015 Beijing and Rio Olympic Games silver medallist Maria Guadalupe González.

Italy’s Palmisano is fresh from European Race Walking Cup in season’s best 1:27.:57. But González went one better last year to take the top step of the podium at the revamped World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome after Liu was later disqualified.