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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Alex Schwazer claims first athletics gold medal for Italy

Italian Alex Schwazer won his country's first athletics gold medal at the Beijing Olympics by claiming the men's 50km walk title here on Friday.

Schwazer timed three hours, 37 minutes and 09 seconds to finish the walking marathon in a new Olympic record. The former record of 3:38:29 was held by Ivanenko Vyacheslav of Soviet Union at Seoul 20 years ago.

"It's the best, it's the highest level. I'm delighted," said Schwazer, "Last year, I messed up. This year was perfect for me, everything went well, it's been a great year. I'm truly happy."

"I wanted to win so badly I had to stop myself from running. I didn't want to mess up. I wanted to show what I could do," he added.

Australian Jared Tallent, who already won a bronze medal at men's 20km walk six days ago, moved a step forward to take the silver medal on Friday with 3:39:27.

He becomes the first Australian to win an Olympic medal in the 50km walk, and the first Australian man in 102 years to win more than one track and field medal.

"This is what you do it for. Just warming up this morning and thinking of all the years of hard work that come down to this. I can't believe it - two medals at the Olympics," said Tallent, noting that walking in 50km event was not a comfortable job.

"It is very painful, I'm sore now. My hamstrings are hurting, but it's all worth it in the end for a silver medal."

Denis Nizhegorodov of Russia, the silver medalist at the Athens Games and world record holder, finished third at 3:40:14.

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