Robert Heffernan won the only World Championship gold medal of the day on Wednesday with a decisive victory in the 50-kilometer race walk. The Irishman, who was fourth in the same event in last year's Olympics, won in a world-leading 3:37:56. Russia's Mikhail Ryzhov was second in a personal best 3:38:58, with Australian veteran Jared Tallent third in 3:40:03.
Heffernan started relatively slowly, trailing the leading group - which included Ryzhov - by 18 seconds after 5 kilometers. The gap grew to 29 seconds after 15 km before Heffernan picked up his pace. By the midway point Heffernan was striding with the lead pack, including Ryzhov and fellow Russian Ivan Noskov. Those three walkers formed the lead group at the 35-kilometer mark, before Noskov fell off the pace and eventually settled for seventh. Heffernan and Ryzhov exchanged the lead several times before Heffernan pulled away with about 10 km remaining. The victory gave Ireland its first Championships medal since Eamonn Coghlan won the 5000 meters at the initial World Championships in 1983.
In preliminary action Wednesday, Anita Wlodarcyzk of Poland threw 76.18 meters (249 feet, 11 inches) to lead six hammer throwers who topped the automatic qualification mark of 73 meters. Other qualifiers included all four Russians, two Chinese throwers and a pair of Americans, led by U.S. champion Amanda Bingson. Surprisingly, Germany's Betty Heidler and Aksana Miankova of Belarus failed to qualify for Friday's final after finishing 18th and 22nd overall, respectively.
Eusebio Caceres was a bit of a surprise as the leading men's long jump qualifier. The 21-year-old from Spain leaped 8.25/27-¾, one of three jumper to top the 8.1-meter automatic qualifying standard, joining Godfrey Mokoena and Aleksandr Menkov. Defending champion Dwight Phillips of the U.S., who's been plagued by injuries since winning his fourth World title in Daegu, was a pleasant surprise as he jumped a season-best 7.95/26-1 to qualify for Friday's final. London Olympic champ Greg Rutherford was the biggest name among non-qualifiers, as he placed 14th overall. Rutherford has been battling a hamstring injury this summer.
Meseret Defar led the women's 5000-meter qualifiers, winning her heat in 15:22.94. Kenya's Mercy Cherono won the other heat. Margaret Wangari Muriuki was the biggest name among non-qualifiers after failing to finish the first heat due to a leg injury.
Kenyans swept the men's 1500-meter heats, led by Asbel Kiprop, who won the first heat in 3:38.15. Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba won the other heats. There were no big-name casualties leading into Friday's semifinals.