The two-day 2022 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships starting tomorrow in Muscat will showcase the new 35km distance ©Getty Images

The two-day 2022 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships, moved from Minsk in Belarus last June amidst concerns over political unrest, start in the Oman capital of Muscat tomorrow, showcasing the new distance of 35 kilometres.

Speaking at the pre-event press conferenceWorld Athletics President Sebastian Coe welcomed the return of the Championships, which were postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns and re-awarded to Oman - for whom this will be the first hosting of a World Athletics Series event - after protests in Belarus over the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"It’s been four years since we last delivered a World Race Walking Team Championships, so we’re delighted that Oman was able to step up and host this event," Coe said.

Muscat - which is welcoming 350 athletes from 46 countries - will see the debut of the 35km as a championship event after the new distance was controversially included in the programme for this year’s World Athletics Championships in Oregon from July 15 to 24 in place of the 50km.

"We welcome the 35km discipline to the competition programme for this event," Coe said.

"I know it had a complicated birth, but I genuinely do believe that this is the right way to go."

The 35km will be contested by men and women on Saturday morning, with both races starting at 07.00, and Spain will be among the nations with highest medal hopes.

Miguel Angel Lopez, the 2015 world and 2014 European champion at 20km, is world-ranked number one and race favourite in the men’s 35km race having posted a time of 2hr 27min 53sec in January that puts him second in this year’s world rankings behind Russia’s Sergey Kozhevnikov, who will not be taking part.

Spain will also call upon Marc Tur, who missed bronze by nine seconds in the final Olympic 50km walk event in Tokyo last summer.

And Spain’s Alvaro Martin, the current European champion and world number one at 20km, has also decided to step up after his recent 2:29:59 clocking behind Lopez that ranks him third in this year’s 35km list.

Chinese hopes will rest on a strong team that includes 23-year-old He Xianghong, who won in Nanjing on January 22 in 2:31:05, followed in a sprint for the line by Zhaxi Yangben just four seconds behind.

Zhenhao Wang, Lu Ning and Gao Yingchao all went sub-2:33 in the same race, and the only race walker from outside Spain and China in the top 11 times is Mexico’s Ricardo Ortiz with 2:30:07.

Also one to watch out for will be Canada’s Evan Dunfee, who won 50km bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics and 2019 Doha World Championships.

Sweden’s illustrious veteran Perseus Karlstrom, the 2019 20km world bronze medallist will also be trying himself out over the new distance as he seeks a possible 20km/35km double at this year's World Championships.

Meanwhile in the women’s 35km, Ecuador’s South American record-holder and rising global talent Glenda Morejon is one of a number of athletes who’ll be making their debut at the new distance.

"I’m doing the 35km here because Ecuador has a strong team and I want to be a part of that," said the 21-year-old, whose team-mates include Paola Perez and Magaly Bonilla, both top-10 finishers over 50km at the 2019 World Championships.

While Spain cannot call upon its top woman walker Maria Perez, the European 20km champion, who is concentrating on her preparations for this year’s World Athletics Championships in Oregon, they nevertheless have a strong representation including the athletes who finished second, third and fifth behind her over 35km at the recent national championships in Lepe - Laura Garcia-Caro, Mar Juarez and Carmen Escariz.

Spain also have good prospects in Saturday’s men’s 20km in Alberto Amezcua, who clocked 1hr 20min 29sec last month and European silver medallist Diego Garcia Carrera.

But Japan field the respective Tokyo 2020 silver and bronze medallists Koki Ikeda, who has a personal best of 1:17:25, and 2019 world champion Toshikazu Yamanishi, who has a best of 1:17:15.

And China’s talented young team could maintain its country's proud tradition in this event.

China is also strongly favoured to dominate tomorrow’s women’s 20km race given that its athletes have recorded the top-five times this year, and in Yang Jiayu they boast the world record-holder who recorded a time of 1hr 23min 49sec last year in Huangshan.

Chinese athletes dominated the last World Race Walking Team Championships in 2018 with 12 medals in all colours, four more than nearest challengers, Japan.