Asian Games gold medalist Wang Kaihua shrugged off the heavy rain to win the men’s 20-kilometer event at the 2020 Chinese Race Walk Invitational in Jinzhou, Liaoning province, on Wednesday. [Photo/Xinhua]

JINZHOU — Asian Games gold medalist Wang Kaihua shrugged off the heavy rain to win the men’s 20-kilometer event at the 2020 Chinese Race Walk Invitational here on Wednesday.

In what was the first on-site national athletics competition held in China since the coronavirus outbreak, the 26-year-old Wang from Guangdong showed solid form as he broke clear in the early stages of the race and barely met with any challenge before finishing in style in one hour, 19 minutes, 46 seconds.

“It has been quite a long time since I last took part in an official competition. I just want to test the effect of my training in the past months,” said Wang, who clocked 1:22:04 to claim the 20km title at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“I did not expect it would rain so heavily. My pace was kind of hampered by the rain. But all in all, I am satisfied with my performance today,” he added.

Zhang Jun of Yunnan trailed more than three minutes behind Wang to finish second in 1:22:52 while Zeng Qingcun from Shandong took third place in 1:23:15.

“Last year I did not compete well at the World Championships. I was defeated by the extreme heat and humidity there and the failure still makes me feel regretful until now,” Wang said, referring to his eighth finish in Doha, Qatar last October.

“There is still one year to go before the Tokyo Olympic Games. I will make good use this one extra year to better prepare myself.”

The men’s 20km race also featured 2012 London Olympic champion Chen Ding, who came out of retirement in 2018 but is still struggling to find his best form. The 27-year-old Chen only clocked a lackluster 1:29:42 to finish 27th. Cai Zelin, silver medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, received four red cards and failed to finish the race.

In the men’s 35km event, which was also staged on Wednesday morning, Sun Song of Shandong recorded a convincing victory in 2:34:28. Meng Zhongkai of Yunnan finished second in 2:36:00, followed by Qinghai’s Zhaxi Yangben with a clocking of 2:36:59.

A total of 95 athletes from 17 teams took part in the one-day competition in the northeastern Chinese city. The women’s 20km event will be contested Wednesday afternoon.

According to the Chinese Athletics Association, all the athletes, coaches and team staff are required to arrive in Jinzhou with a negative COVID-19 test result within seven days, and take a second test in the hotel before checking in as part of the pandemic prevention and control measures introduced by the organizers.