| Chen Ding of China (L) competes in 2009. Chen won China's first ever men's Olympic 20 kilometres walk title and first ever medal in the event here on Saturday coming home in a time of 1hr 18 min 46sec. - LONDON (AFP)
Chen Ding won China's first ever men's Olympic 20 kilometres walk title and first ever medal in the event on Saturday coming home in a new Olympic record time of 1hr 18 min 46sec.
The 19-year-old, who turns 20 on Sunday, beat home Erick Barrondo, who gave Guatemala their first Olympic medal in any sport, while another Chinese walker, Wang Zhen, was third.
"I am excited for everybody in China, for my family and my coach. I had a very good preparation and I executed my plan well," said Chen.
"I will celebrate this victory and my birthday with my family and as many people as I can."
Barrondo said that it was a significant moment for him and for his impoverished country.
"I can't believe it. I am very happy. I have made history for Guatemala.
"I am not sure what they are saying over there. I will call my family, my girlfriend, and we will all be celebrating together. It was a glorious day for me, but the glory is most of all for my country."
Defending champion Valeriy Borchin of Russia collapsed and lay distressed against a barrier within two kilometres of the finish while he was in fourth place and had to be stretchered away by medical staff.
Japan's Asian champion Yusuke Suzuki set the early pace and opened up a decent gap on the pack which was headed by Irish veteran Robert Heffernan.
However, a burst from Wang approaching the halfway mark firstly split the pack apart and then reeled in Suzuki, who paid for his over-enthusiasm by dropping steadily down the field.
Wang led a breakaway group of 10 including Chen, Australia's Jarred Talent, the bronze medalist in the event four years ago, and Indian Kolothum Thodi Irfan.
In a lively race Frenchman Bertrand Moulinet emerged from the pack to open up a sizeable lead while Heffernan crept back into medal contention as he rejoined the chasing group.
Moulinet's trot for glory was brought to a halt as he was swallowed up and then dropped from the pack, with the new rabbit being Chen.
In the final kilometres Chen and Wang were involved in a battle for the honours with Russian duo Borchin and Vladimir Kanaykin as well as the tenacious Berrondo.
Colombian world bronze medalist Luis Fernando Lopez's dreams of another major medal were shattered as he received his third and final warning; he turned disbelievingly to the official asking for clarification and got the confirmation he was dreading.
Kanaykin too suffered the same fate shortly afterwards, leaving four to contest the medals.
Chen made the decisive break with just two kilometres remaining while Berrondo shook off the attentions of Wang, which earned the 21-year-old a big hug from the coach at the end.