MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia will be gunning for a third and final race walk gold in the fifth day of action at the World Athletics Championships on Wednesday.
After gold-medal showings by Aleksandr Ivanov and Elena Lashmanova in the men and women's 20km walks, the focus now turns to the longest race on the world championships programme, the men's 50km walk -- the women do not compete over that distance.
It is a demanding event, with athletes required to hold their technique and form for around four hours in strength-sapping conditions where morning humidity goes up to 80 percent, all the time in real competition.
Russian men have all but dominated the event, apart from a 2007-8 blip when, successively, Australian Nathan Deakes and Alex Schwazer of Italy won gold medals at global champs.
Sergey Kirdyapkin won the 2009 Berlin worlds and took gold at last year's London Olympics and now-injured Sergey Bakulin led in a Russian 1-2 in Daegu two years ago, beating team-mate and world record-holder Denis Nizhegorodov for gold.
Kirdyapkin will be accompanied in Moscow by European Cup minor medallists Mikhail Ryzhov and Ivan Noskov for the walk.
Contenders for a podium place include Frenchman Yohann Diniz, a perennial contender at this event but not yet a medallist, and Erick Barrondo of Guatemala.
Australian Jared Tallent has also been a medallist in Beijing, Daegu and London without taking the biggest prize yet.
Back on the track, Ethiopian Olympic champion Meseret Defar gets a first run out in the 5,000m after being pulled from a 10,000m showdown with teammate and runaway gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba.
Dibaba, who ran the world-leading 5,000m time of 14:23.68 earlier this season at the Paris Diamond League meet, has also been pulled from the 5,000m as the Ethiopian athletics federation blood a raft of up-and-coming youngsters.
"I am not disappointed that the federation didn't want us to try to double," Dibaba said.
"We have run many years and the upcoming athletes need the experience. Because that was how it was explained to me I don't have any regrets at all. I am happy that they are getting experience."
Defar has one gold (2007), a silver and two bronzes over the distance and will be favourite in the absence of defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya, who is expecting her first child.
Also on Wednesday's programme is women's hammer throw qualification, and heats for the men's 1500m and long jump.