Chinese Olympian Wang Zhen is now officially the World’s fastest walker after claiming the Olympic gold medal for this year’s 20-kilometer race walk at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The walking speedster also currently holds the senior Asian record for the 20 km with his time of 1:17:36 hours and is also the Chinese, Asian, and junior world record holder for the 10 km.
Wang, who was born in Suiha in 1991, began training from a young age to compete professionally at the top level of the sport in 2008. At 17 years old, he won the junior 30 km walk at the Chinese national race walking championships by finishing in 2:08:46.
The following year, he grabbed the sixth place at his first 50-kilometer race via the 2009 Chinese National Games clocking in at 3:53:00.
His international exposure began a year later, joining and doing favorably well in several global competitions leading him to secure a slot into the 10 km 2010 IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final. The event, which was hosted in Beijing, would be known as one of the all-time fastest with four men clocking 38 minutes and under for their walks.
Another Chinese walker, Wang Hao, was initially the crowd favorite for the race, but it was Wang Zhen who eventually grabbed the top spot by finishing the race in 37:44 minutes. His score marked a new Asian record, the world junior record for the distance, and the joint second fastest mark of all-time with Norwegian race walker Erik Tysse.
He then broke more records by joining other international competitions in the years leading up to his first Olympic appearance in the 2012 London Games. He grabbed the bronze in the 20 km walk while sharing the podium with silver medalist Chen Ding, both winning China’s first ever Olympic medals in the event.
For his latest achievement, Wang took over the lead from compatriot Cai with 3 km left to race to claim an impressive victory, finishing the 20-kilometer race walk in 1 hour and 19.14 seconds, AFP reported
Cai settled for second place by clocking 1:19:26 while Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith, who achieved his personal best of 1:19:37, earned a bronze medal.
Initially, Cai and British walker Tom Bosworth were toe to toe in the lead, before Wang asserted his dominance in the final three kilometers.
“I feel like I didn’t have much of a plan about this race,” Wang Zhen told the press after the race. “I talked with my coach beforehand, but I just followed my heart. “