JINZHOU, China — Former world champion Yang Jiayu landed a convincing victory in the women’s 20-kilometer race, while Asian Games gold medalist Wang Kaihua shrugged off heavy rain to claim the men’s 20km title at the 2020 Chinese Race Walk Invitational here on Wednesday.

In what was the first on-site national athletics competition held in China since the coronavirus outbreak, the 24-year-old Yang from Team Bayi, who took the gold medal at the 2017 World Championships in London, led almost from the gun to finish to break tape in one hour, 30 minutes and 22 seconds.

Yang spearheaded a leading group of six race walkers after the first lap of the one-kilometer course that stretched alongside the scenic Xiaoling river in the northeastern Chinese city. The leading group was soon cut to three athletes – Yang, 2019 World Championships runner-up Qieyang Shijie and 2014 Youth Olympic champion Ma Zhenxia after the second lap.

The reckless Yang tried to pull away after three kilometers but was soon caught by Qieyang as the duo kept pushing ahead to extend the gap from their chasers. After a fierce see-saw battle in the following four kilometers, the 29-year-old Qieyang had to quit the title contest with a thigh muscle injury.

Yang slowed down a little bit afterwards but still managed to maintain a comfortable sole lead all the way to the finish.

“My goal for the race is to win the title although the result today was not quite satisfactory for me,” Yang said. “After such a long time of training without competition, I really need to win this race to motivate myself.”

The 22-year-old Ma of Shandong finished second in 1:32:25, while the bronze medal went to the reigning world 50km champion Liang Rui of Henan, who clocked a time of 1:34:55.

“Since the women’s 50km is not an Olympic event, I choose to do the 20km event in order to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. But I still have a long way to go and need to further improve my result,” said Liang.

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