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Olympics 2008

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Olympics: Drugs tainted Borchin delivers maiden gold for Russia

Controversial Russian walker Valeriy Borchin gave his country their first ever walking Olympic gold medal here on Saturday as he took the men''s 20 kilometres walk timing 1hour 19minutes 01seconds.

The 22-year-old - who served a one year drugs ban in 2005/06 - had been swept up in a confusing story prior to the Games where his coach said that he had failed a drugs test but which was denied by the national team coach.

Borchin beat home 1996 Olympic champion Jefferson Perez of Ecuador (1hr 19.15) while Australia''s Jared Tallent (1hr 19.42)filled the bronze medal position.

Rustam Kuvatov of Kazakhnstan set the early pace and was narrowly ahead after 2km just after the athletes had left the stadium.

Kuvatov''s flirtation with Olympic fame came to an end just after the 5km mark as he was caught and passed by Francisco Fernandez of Spain while Ireland''s Robert Heffernan took closer order on his shoulder.

A group of 26 were now clear of the rest of the field.

At the 8km mark Fernandez - silver medallist in Athens and three times a silver medallist in the world championships - was joined up front by defending champion Ivano Brugnetti with Eder Sanchez of Mexico also prominent while Heffernan and Australia''s Luke Adams looked dangerous.

At the halfway mark Brugnetti and Fernandez shared the lead with the dogged Heffernan stalking them and Luis Lopez of Colombia on his shoulder in a lead group of 12.

Fernandez received a warning shortly afterwards as Heffernan surprisingly took the lead with Brugnetti in second and Fernandez third as the group contending for medals was whittled down to eight.

This trio alternated the lead but suddenly on the horizon appeared the menacing figure of Perez.

Perez, Brugnetti and Fernandez upped the pace and split the leading pack with Heffernan one of those dropped.

However, the Italian and the Spaniard were left trailing as Russian Valeriy Borchin went up a gear and only Perez was capable of staying with him while Tallent moved into bronze medal position.

Though Perez hung on valiantly the Russian landed the killer blow two kilometres from the finish as he accelerated and opened up a decisive gap.

The Ecuadorean - who became the youngest ever winner of the walk in 1996 - could not reel him back in and dropped to his knees and made the sign of the cross on crossing the line as he bowed out after a glorious career.

Tallent by contrast cut a distressed figure as he threw up down the finishing straight but held on for third.

pi/ak08


AFP

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