Kimberly Garcia Leon won Peru’s first-ever gold medal on Friday after dominating the women’s 20km race walk, the opening event of the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Garcia Leon, who is also listed to take part in next week’s 35km race walk, clocked 1hr 26min 58sec to smash her country’s national record as she mastered the race in hot, sunny conditions.
It was the first ever world championships medal of any kind for Peru.
Poland’s Katarzyna Zdzieblo took silver in 1:27.31, with China’s Qieyang Shijie claiming bronze, a further 25sec adrift.
“I have dreamed of this medal since I was little,” sid Garcia Leon.
“I want to dedicate it to all Peruvians. They will be very proud. This is the first medal for us at the world championships and I hope it won’t be the last one.
“I stayed focused on my goal to achieve a medal. I thought of that during the entire race and things worked out.
“I am very happy and proud of myself,” she added. “I have worked hard, hoping to be in a good placing. It’s not been easy, but I am a fighter.”
Qieyang and Garcia Leon set the early pace, going through the 10km mark in 43:31, 20sec ahead of Zdzieblo.
Garcia Leon then kicked away at the 16km mark, quickly building up a 6sec lead on Qieyang, that increasing to 18sec within the next kilometre as she turned on the gas.
“At the 15km mark, my coach instructed me to up the pace,” the Peruvian acknowledged.
“I told myself it would be now or never. In the last kilometre, I gave it all to break my national record.”
Qieyang, the 2012 Olympic champion, was then overtaken by Zdzieblo, but held off Australian Jemima Montag for bronze.
Defending champion Liu Hong of China was fifth, falling just short in her bid to become the first four-time world champion in a race walking event.
Spain’s European record holder Maria Perez, ranked second in the world, racked up three red cards for loss of contact between running shoes and ground within 7km, meaning an enforced pitstop of two minutes that effectively put an end to her hopes.
She was eventually disqualifed at the 13km mark.