Kimberly Garcia Leon won Peru's first medal at the World Athletics Championships with gold in the women's 20km ©Getty Images

Kimberly Garcia Leon claimed the first gold of the World Athletics Championships in Eugene and her country’s first ever medal at the event, winning the women’s 20 kilometres race walk title.

The 26-year-old’s winning flourish preceded a dramatic victory in the men’s 20km race walk by Japan’s defending champion Toshikazu Yamanishi, who in a temperature rising towards 30 centigrade accelerated clear of his compatriot Koki Ikeda, who beat him to Olympic silver last year, over the final 500 metres.

Yamanishi won in 1 hour 19min 07sec, with Ikeda on 1:19:14 and Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom earning a second consecutive world bronze in 1:19:18 ahead of Kenya’s 34-year-old Samuel Gathimba, who clocked 1:19:25.

Garcia Leon established an early lead alongside China’s Doha 2019 silver medallist and London 2012 Olympic champion Qieyang Shijie before pushing on alone over the final third of the looped 1km course on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard east of Eugene’s city centre as temperatures rose towards 28C.

Having won Pan American Games silver in 2019 in front of her home supporters in Lima, Garcia Leon was set on generating further Peruvian pride, and she finished in a national record of 1:28:38 as she won her country's first medal at the World Championships. 

Qieyang dropped back in the closing stages as Katarzyna Zdzieblo came through for second place in a Polish record of 1:27:31, but the 31-year-old Chinese walker held on to earn a second bronze to go with the one she won in Daegu 11 years ago as she finished in 1:27:56.

Australia’s Commonwealth champion Jemima Montag missed the podium by one place in 1:28:17, finishing one place ahead of China’s defending champion Hong Liu, who had been seeking a fifth consecutive title but finished in 1:29:00, having dropped off the lead after the opening four kilometres.

Toshikazu Yamanishi of Japan retained his world men's 20km race walk title in Oregon ©Getty Images
Toshikazu Yamanishi of Japan retained his world men's 20km race walk title in Oregon ©Getty Images

"I have worked hard, hoping to achieve a good placing," said Garcia Leon. 

"It's not been easy but I am a fighter. 

"I stayed focused on my goal to achieve a medal. 

"I thought of that during the entire race and things worked out.

"I have dreamed of this medal since I was little.

"I want to dedicate it to all Peruvians; they will be very proud. 

"This is our country’s first medal at the World Championships and I hope it won't be the last one."

Earlier, Italy’s joint-Olympic men’s high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi teetered on the brink of failing to qualify for the final on Monday (July 18), only to clear 2.25 metres and then 2.28m at his third and final attempts at Hayward Field. 

While it never does to bet against this ebullient and hugely competitive 30-year-old, who shared world indoor bronze earlier this year, the men who looked most likely to contest the top step of the podium were his co-winner at Tokyo 2020, Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim, and the South Korean who missed an Olympic medal by one place but won world indoor gold this year, Sanghyeok Woo, both of whom made it to 2.28m without blemish.

Israel’s 19-year-old world under-20 champion Jonathan Kapitolnik encountered triumph and disaster in short order as he cleared 2.28m but then lay agonised on the pit bed clutching his left calf and being assisted away.

The men’s hammer throw qualification precipitated the two mighty Poles - Olympic champion Wojciech Nowicki and the man seeking a fifth consecutive world title, Pawel Fajdek - into tomorrow’s final.

Fajdek topped qualifying with 80.09m and Nowicki was third best on 79.22m, with home thrower Daniel Haugh second on 79.34m.

The women’s hammer qualifying lacked the two women who have bettered 80m, world record holder and Olympic champion Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland, who has had surgery on her thigh after injuring herself apprehending someone who tried to steal her car, and home thrower DeAnna Price, also injured.

Those proving themselves most ready to fill the vacuum were another home thrower, Janee Kassanavoid, who topped qualifying with 74.36m, Finland’s Krista Tervo, on 73.83m, and Camryn Rogers of Canada on 73.67m.

The heats of the 4x400 metres mixed relay saw Olympic champions Poland heading towards the exit after a poor start in the opening heat only for their European individual champion Justyna Swiety-Ersetic to move from fourth to third in the final 50 metres behind the United States and The Netherlands.

The second heat, won by an Dominican Republic anchored by Olympic silver medallist Marileidy Paulino, saw Ireland, Tokyo 2020 finalists, earn another prestigious qualification, with Jack Rafferty’s third leg split of 45.37sec being the fastest in the race, and Rhasidat Adeleke astonishing with her anchor leg of 49.80.