Zhenxia Ma won the women's 20km title on a day of Chinese domination at the 2022 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Muscat ©Getty Images

China dominated the opening day of the 2022 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Muscat with a one-two in the women’s 20 kilometres event following victories in the morning’s 10km races for under-20 men and women.

Zhenxia Ma took gold and world record holder Jiayu Yang claimed silver in the first of three scheduled senior races in the Oman capital, clocking 1hr 30min 22sec and 1:31.54 respectively, with Peru’s Kimberly García León earning bronze in 1:32:27.    

An event that was moved from Minsk in Belarus last June amidst concerns over political unrest will tomorrow provide a first showcase for the new 35km distance as a Championship event with senior men’s and women’s races before the programme concludes with the men’s 20km.

A few minutes before the opening race got under way, the competitors observed a moment's reflection for Ukraine with athletes from several nations holding up the Ukrainian flag, while World Athletics President Sebastian Coe laid down a bouquet of blue and gold flowers.

Valeriya Sholomitska, the sole Ukrainian entrant in Muscat, shed a few tears but maintained her composure as she took to the start line.

The 26-year-old Jiayu Yang, as expected, dominated the race in the opening three kilometres, but in the heat of the afternoon she slowed and was accompanied for the next 15km by the two other eventual medallists.

Ma, 23, a former world champion in the under-18 and under-20 categories, then pulled away over the final three kilometres, with a tired Yang hanging on for silver in front of the Peruvian walker.

China won the team event in front of Greece and India.

Earlier in the day Yunyan Jiang and Jinyan Jiang had taken gold and silver in the opening race, the women’s under-20 10km race, clocking 47min 48sec and 48:03 respectively.

Bronze was claimed by Finland’s Heta Veikkola in 48:11.

“The course was not easy because of the hot weather, but I gave my best to finish in top position with the team,” said Yunyan Jiang.

The team win went to China, with silver going to Australia and bronze to Spain.

Soon afterwards there was more cause for Chinese celebration as Hongren Wang came home to win the men’s under-20 10km title in 44:06, although only after dramatic events in the final 100 metres, at which point he was third.

Amit Khatri appeared on the verge of winning a historic first gold at these Championships for India when he was pulled into the penalty zone, to be joined almost immediately - if temporarily - by Kenya’s world under-20 champion Heristone Wanyonyi Wafula.

That appeared to open the way for Wang and his compatriot Yu Zeng to claim gold and silver, but Italy’s Diego Giampaolo, despite wrongly thinking he had been penalised in the final straight, recovered to beat the latter athlete to silver on the line, with both clocking 44:14.

Wafula recovered his fortunes sufficiently to take fourth place in a Kenyan under-20 record of 45:18.

"Our main tactic was to follow the leading athletes during the first half of the race and keep an eye on their form, then decide if we will catch up or keep following," Wang told World Athletics.

Giampaolo commented: "The course was extremely hard.

"It was very hot.

"I needed two bottles of water per lap to stay cool and hydrated.

"When I saw two athletes getting red cards, my coach told me not to give up, and keep pushing till the end, because you may have a chance.

"So, as soon as the two athletes went into the penalty zone, I sprinted as much as I can.

"The Chinese athletes looked very tired at this stage, so I managed to get between them and finish second."

Italy and Spain followed home China in the team standings.

Chinese athletes dominated the last World Race Walking Team Championships in 2018 with 12 medals in all colours, four more than nearest challengers, Japan, and with six medals in the bag after day one they look capable of matching that performance tomorrow.