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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 August, 2003, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
O'Sullivan takes Paris silver
Ireland's Gillian O'Sullivan celebrates in the home straight

Gillian O'Sullivan claimed the Republic of Ireland's first medal at the World Championships for eight years as she won the silver in the women's 20km walk behind Russia's Yelena Nikolayeva.

Nikolayeva led from start to finish to take the gold in a championship record of 1 hour 26.52 minutes, 42 seconds ahead of O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan finished in 1:27:34, with Valentina Tsybulskaya of Belarus taking the bronze in 1:28.10.

O'Sullivan's medal was Ireland's first since 1995, when her namesake Sonia O'Sullivan won gold in the 5,000m.

Nikolayeva was a heavy favourite coming into the championships after setting the best time of the season.

At 37, she had already won the 10km Olympic title at Atlanta in 1996 and gold in the 3km world indoor championship in 1993.

Defending champion Olimpiada Ivanova of Russia stepped out of the course early on, almost as soon as she left the stadium.

Nikolayeva, one of the oldest competitors in the race, immediately took charge with O'Sullivan and Italy's Elisabetta Perrone.

"We just pushed and pushed on," said O'Sullivan.

But Nikolayeva made a decisive move at 7km, building up a 20-second lead at halfway and extending her lead in the second half of the race.

Such was her domination she was smiling to her coaches and friends during the final stages.


20km Walk Result:

1 Yelena Nikolayeva (Rus) 1:26:52
2 Gillian O'Sullivan (Ire) 1:27:34
3 Valentina Tsybulskaya (Bel) 1:28:09
4 Tatyana Gudkova (Rus) 1:28:53
5 Claudia Stef (Rom) 1:29:09
6 Rossella Giordano (Ita) 1:29:14





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