AFP - Russia's Olympic champion Valeriy Borchin won the first gold medal of the world athletics championships here on Saturday when he took the men's 20 kilometres walk title.
The 22-year-old Russian, who served a one year drugs ban in 2005/06, played a waiting game in the first part of the race before coming home well clear in a time of 1hour 18minutes 41seconds ahead of China's Hao Wang while Mexico's Eder Sanchez took bronze.
Borchin said that his experience at the distance had paid off handsomely.
"That is the reason why I was so well prepared," he said.
"I knew how to behave in a race like this."
For Hao - who was fourth in the Olympics - it was a case of double joy.
"Tomorrow (Sunday, he will be 20) is my birthday that is a nice birthday gift," he said.
"I was fourth at the Olympics, so this year I aimed for the top three. I came second with a personal best, so I am very happy."
For Sanchez it was also a case of turning the frustration of fourth at a major championships - he was just outside the medals at these championships two years ago - into a medal and for Mexico it ended a long medal drought.
"I feel very happy because this is the first medal for Mexico after such a long time," he said.
"The last medal for Mexico was in the world championships in Edmonton in 2001 and it was also bronze. After eight long years I bring Mexico back onto the international stage."
The early part of the race had been lit up by Italian duo Georgio Rubino and Ivano Brugnetti along with Norway's Erik Tysse while Borchin, Hao and Sanchez were among a group of about 10 walkers 15 metres behind.
Rubino led Brugnetti at the halfway mark with Tysse dropping off the pace, though soon afterwards Rubino looked to have opened a gap on his compatriot with the Norwegian boldly trying to keep within touching distance of the second-placed walker.
However, this was a false dawn for the trio as the race turned on its head when they were all swept up by the pursuing pack and were quickly dropped - apart from Rubino - withHao prominent along with Luis Lopez of Colombia and Borchin.
Australian Adam Rutter saw his hopes dashed when he was disqualfied in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate after three warnings just before the hour mark, while compatriot and double Olympic medalist from last year Jared Tallent was unable to keep pace and eventually settlef for sixth place.
Borchin and Hao detached themselves from the group at the 15km mark with Lopez a second behind.
Borchin, though, broke clear of the valiant Hao just before the 17km mark and looked totally in control taking a five seconds advantage on the Chinese athlete, which he then extended to an insurmountable nine.
As they neared the final kilometre Borchin was 16sec ahead and he raised his arms in triumph as he headed for the tape.