By Sportswriter Wu Junkuan
LONDON, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- With only one day to go before his twentieth birthday, Chinese race walker Chen Ding will have a great mood for celebration after winning the gold medal in the men's 20km walk at 2012 London Olympics here on Saturday.
"It is a wonderful gift for my birthday," said Chen, who clocked one hour, 18 minutes and 46 seconds to set a new Olympic record while cruising to the top podium.
It is the first Olympic gold medal won by a Chinese male walker and also the second Olympic gold won by a Chinese male track and field athlete following the country's hurdling star Liu Xiang who claimed title at 2004 Athens Games.
"I do not think I will emerge as a superstar like Liu Xiang," said Chen. "Before I won the gold medal, I was just an ordinary athlete. And if I want to achieve more, I need to remain ordinary and keep a low profile."
But during the 20-kilometer race on Saturday, the 20-year-old young man did race like a superstar. After the 10km mark Chen was never left behind by the leading group. He started to speed up for a leading position after 16 kilometers, and was hardly challenged with a clear and comfortable lead in the front.
With still two kilometers left, Chen already could not wait to start his celebration. While giving high-fives to spectators he passed by and occasionally stretching up his arm to point to the sky, Chen never looked back until hitting the finishing line to pocket his first title in major international competitions.
"My coach told me to stay low in the first part of the race, I just need to follow the leading walkers to save strength. During the 12 to 16 kilometers, I start to change my speed and successfully set up the advantage," said Chen.
"The last kilometers were easy for me as once I got the advantage I was feeling more and more relaxed and comfortable. And my speed became faster so I did not need to worry about being overtaken."
Although Erick Barrondo of Guatemala tried his best to catch up in the final two kilometers, he was still 11 seconds behind Chen as the 21-year-old earned a silver, the first medal in London Olympics for his country.
The bronze medal went to China's Wang Zhen, who was widely rated as top favorite together with reigning world and Olympic champion Valeriy Borchin of Russia before the race.
"I tried to speed up in the last three laps (6 kilometers), but I failed because the muscle in my right leg did not feel good," said the 21-year-old Wang, current Asian record holder and also the winner of the 2012 IAAF race walking World Cup in Saransk, Russia.
"My expectation for the London Games is a medal, so I am really excited about the bronze," said Wang.
Compared with the defending champion Borchin, Wang had every reason to feel satisfied with his bronze. The Russian collapsed as he tried to fight for a medal in the final stage of race.