All Athletics Menu

2004 Olympic Games Athens - Women's 20 km walk



Host City: Athina, Greece  
Date Started: August 23, 2004  
Date Finished: August 23, 2004  
(Competitors: 57; Countries: 35)  
    Venue(s): Olympic Stadium, Athens Olympic Sports Complex Spiros Loues, Maroussi
Overview by IAAF    2004-athens-stadium.jpg
The pre-race favourites were Yelena Nikolayeva and Ivanova, who feared hot weather competitors Rigaudo and Vasco. These four, together with reigning champion Wang, Turova, Saville and Tsoumeléka led at halfway (45:16). Ivanova led through 16Km, and then Tsoumeléka took over, much to the delight of the home crowd ringing the two kilometre loop. At 18Km she was five seconds clear, and lost only one second in the final 2Km. Saville, who had been disqualified while leading four years earlier, won the battle for third, and both she and Tsoumeléka were in tears on the victory podium. It should be noted that both of Greece’s Athens Olympic Champions – Tsoumeleka and Fani Halkía – were banned for doping violations in later years.
Summary by      
The last two World Championships had been won by Russians, with Olimpiada Ivanova, the world record holder, winning in 2001 and 1996 Olympic champion Yelena Nikolayeva winning in 2003. The defending champion, Wang Liping was also back. Ivanova led the race most of the way, but the walkers toured a two km. loop outside the Olympic Stadium, and home favorite Athanasia Tsoumeleka pulled even with during that loop, and nudged ahead of Ivanova on the stadium track to win by four seconds. Wang finished eighth while Nikolayeva was a well-beaten 17th. The podium was a tearful scene, with Tsoumeleka crying as the home crowd lavished their plaudits on her. Ivanova was calm, but bronze medalist Jane Saville cried openly for her medal, having been disqualified in 2000 when she was leading on the stadium track in front of her Australian fans.


Prior to the competition, the existing World and Olympic records were as follows.

World record  Wang Yan (CHN) 1:26:22 Guangzhou, China 19 November 2001
Olympic record  Wang Liping (CHN) 1:29:05 Sydney, Australia 28 September 2000

No new records were set during the competition.


The qualification period for athletics was 1 January 2003 to 9 August 2004. For the women's 20 kilometres race walk, each National Olympic Committee was permitted to enter up to three athletes that had run the race in 1:33:30 or faster during the qualification period. If an NOC had no athletes that qualified under that standard, one athlete that had run the race in 1:38:00 or faster could be entered.

The women's 20 kilometres race walk at the 2004 Summer Olympics as part of the athletics program was held through the streets of Athens with the start and finish at the Athens Olympic Stadium on August 23.

The race had started with a strong, good-sized bunch of fifty-seven walkers keeping together through the field. As the group left the stadium falling apart, Russia's Olimpiada Ivanova took the front of the pack on the opening 2k laps, followed by several of the anticipated favorites, which included 2000 Olympic champion Wang Liping, the Australian sisters Jane and Natalie Saville, and the Greek duo Athina Papayianni and Athanasia Tsoumeleka.

By the half way mark, fourteen walkers were still in close contention with Ivanova maintaining the lead and Belarus' Ryta Turava staying beside her to shorten the gap. As the Belarusian began to lose contact, Ivanova steadily broke away from the group to own the race, until Jane Saville set the pace much faster to chase her on the succeeding lap. With just 2k left to go, home favorite Tsoumeleka zoomed past the two remaining chasers Ivanova and Saville on a late charge to quickly build up a seemingly insurmountable lead.

Entering the Olympic Stadium with a rapturous welcome from the partisan crowd, Tsoumeleka walked jubilantly into the final stretch to deliver the Greeks their first ever Olympic track and field gold medal at these Games. She finished the race in 1:29.12, just four seconds ahead of the eventual silver medalist Ivanova. Meanwhile, Saville had finally erased her setback of being disqualified at the Sydney Olympics four years earlier to successfully claim the bronze, holding Turava off the podium to fourth.

23 AUG 2004 General News

Women's 20km Walk Final

To cries of “Hellas! Hellas!”, Athanasia Tsoumeleka strode into the Olympic Stadium at the end of the women’s 20 kilometre Walk to deliver the athletics gold medal that all of Greece had sought with such fervour since the International Olympic Committee decided seven years ago that the Games should return to Athens after 108 years.

The 22-year-old Tsoumeleka, whose previous best international performance was her fourth place at the World Juniors four years ago, had made a burst with just 2km left, and resisted the desperate counter-attacks from Russia’s Olimpiada Ivanova and Jane Saville, of Australia, to finish four seconds ahead of the Russian in 1:29.12, with Saville a further nine seconds back in 1:29:25 for bronze.

“It was a tough race,” the tiny Greek woman said, her beaming smile belying the efforts she had gone to, “I knew the course from our national championships, and I have been dreaming ever since of coming into the stadium and hearing the cheers of the crowds.”

With a strong breeze around the Olympic Stadium, temperatures at the start of the race were not as fierce as they had been over the weekend, at a mere 26 degrees. It helped to keep a strong, good-sized bunch together, including all the anticipated favourites, such as Ivanova and Yelena Nikolayeva, the World champion, Spain’s Maria Vasco, the sisters Jane and Natalie Saville, Hongjuan Song, from China, and her team mate Wang Liping, the Sydney gold medal-winner, and Italy’s Elisa Rigaudo, the leader of the Race Walking Challenge standings.

Plus, there were two Greeks, Athina Papayianni and Tsoumeleka, the three-time Greek champion whose previous best time was 1:29:34 she recorded last year.

The lead group clicked off the opening 2km laps in just over nine minutes each, although the fourth lap picked up slightly to reach 8km in 36:17.

With 14 walkers still in close contention at halfway (45:16), Ivanova and Margarita Turova at the front of the pack began turning the screw ever so slightly, covering the sixth lap in just 8:55. The principle casualty was Song, the fastest in the world this year ahead of the Games, with 1:26.46, but unable to sustain this pace.

The next lap was faster still, at 8:51, and now Jane Saville, the woman who four years ago was in the gold medal position when just outside the Olympic Stadium but was barred from entry because of a third judge’s warning, was setting the pace once again.

Into the last lap, though, and it was Tsoumeleka, in inspired form, who made a telling burst, quickly opening up a lead of some 10 metres on Saville and Ivanova.

Despite being served her second warning in sight of the stadium, Tsoumeleka was able to sustain her speed to see off the Russian and Australian.

“Nothing can make up for losing the gold medal in my home town,” Jane Saville said, “but this is pretty good.

“I knew Ivanova was pretty strong, and that she’d be tough to beat, and I just could not go with her any more at the end. The Greek girl I don’t know much about, but she must be a pretty tough athlete.”

20 km walk Women     Final 23 August      
Rank Mark     Athlete Country NOC Birth Date Records
1 1.29.12     Athanasía Tsoumeléka Greece GRE 2 Jan 82 NUR
2 1.29.16     Olimpiada Ivanova Russia RUS 5 May 70  
3 1.29.25     Jane Saville Australia AUS 5 Nov 74  
4 1.29.39     Ryta Turava Belarus BLR 28 Dec 80  
5 1.29.52     Melanie Seeger Germany GER 8 Jan 77  
6 1.29.57     Elisa Rigaudo Italy ITA 17 Jun 80  
7 1.30.06     María Vasco Spain ESP 26 Dec 75  
8 1.30.16     Wang Liping China CHN 8 Jul 76  
9 1.30.22     Elena Ginko Belarus BLR 30 Jul 76  
10 1.30.37     Athiná Papayiánni Greece GRE 18 Aug 80  
11 1.30.39     Rossella Giordano Italy ITA 1 Dec 72  
12 1.30.49     Kjersti Tysse Plätzer Norway NOR 18 Jan 72  
13 1.31.02     Yuliya Voyevodina Russia RUS 17 Oct 71  
14 1.31.27     Song Hongjuan China CHN 4 Jul 84  
15 1.31.49     Valentina Tsybulskaya Belarus BLR 19 Feb 68  
16 1.31.59     Sabine Krantz Germany GER 6 Feb 81  
17 1.32.16     Yelena Nikolayeva Russia RUS 17 Mar 66  
18 1.32.21     Elisabetta Perrone Italy ITA 9 Jul 68  
19 1.32.22     Kristina Saltanovič Lithuania LTU 20 Feb 75  
20 1.32.47     Susana Feitor Portugal POR 28 Jan 75  
21 1.33.06     Sylwia Chirat-Korzeniowska Poland POL 25 Apr 80  
22 1.33.17     Zuzana Malíková Slovakia SVK 2 Aug 83  
23 1.33.36     Sonata Milušauskaitė Lithuania LTU 31 Aug 73  
24 1.33.37     Barbora Dibelková Czech Republic CZE 29 May 83  
25 1.33.53     Inês Henriques Portugal POR 1 May 80  
26 1.33.59     Maribel Gonçalves Portugal POR 1 Apr 78  
27 1.34.30     Norica Cîmpean Romania ROU 22 Mar 72  
28 1.34.43     Svetlana Tolstaya Kazakhstan KAZ 9 Aug 71  
29 1.34.56     Ana Maria Groza Romania ROU 1 Jun 76  
30 1.35.32     Rocío Florido Spain ESP 16 Jan 76  
31 1.35.43     Hristína Kokótou Greece GRE 9 Jan 72  
32 1.35.56     Jiang Jing China CHN 23 Oct 85  
33 1.36.02     Yeliz Ay Turkey TUR 9 Nov 77  
34 1.36.07     Victoria Palacios Mexico MEX 29 Mar 77  
35 1.36.34     Yuan Yufang Malaysia MAS 1 Feb 76  
36 1.36.54     Natalie Saville Australia AUS 7 Sep 78  
37 1.37.14     Daniela Cîrlan Romania ROU 18 Sep 80  
38 1.37.40     Cheryl Webb Australia AUS 3 Oct 76  
39 1.37.53     Marie Polli Switzerland SUI 28 Oct 80  
40 1.37.56     Mayumi Kawasaki Japan JPN 10 May 80  
41 1.38.36     Geovanna Irusta Bolivia BOL 26 Sep 75  
42 1.38.45     Vira Zozulya Ukraine UKR 31 Aug 70  
43 1.38.47     Teresa Vaill United States USA 20 Nov 62  
44 1.39.45     Edina Füsti Hungary HUN 24 Jun 82  
45 1.39.54     Anita Liepiņa Latvia LAT 17 Nov 67  
46 1.42.22     Sandra Zapata Colombia COL 3 Feb 77  
47 1.42.37     Nicolene Cronje South Africa RSA 16 Jun 83  
48 1.46.21     Alessandra Picagevicz Brazil BRA 20 Feb 84  
49 1.46.41     Natividad Teresita Collado Guatemala GUA 20 Nov 71  
50 1.49.08     Yelena Kuznetsova Kazakhstan KAZ 4 Jul 77  
51 1.49.28     Yolande Raffin Mauritius MRI 17 Aug 81  
52 2.04.54     Fumilay Fonseca São Tomé and Príncipe STP 24 May 88  
  DQ     Mayte Gargallo Spain ESP 15 Oct 69  
  DQ     Kim Mi-Jung South Korea KOR 10 Jun 79  
  DNF     Olive Loughnane Ireland IRL 14 Jan 76  
  DNF     Rosario Sánchez Mexico MEX 26 Oct 73  
  DNF     Nevena Mineva-Dimitrova Bulgaria BUL 17 Jun 72  




Real time web analytics, Heat map tracking

Olympic Games



All Events


Athletics in Olympic Games




You are here: Home Athletics Olympic Games (Athletics) 2004 Athens 2004 Olympic Games Athens - Women's 20 km walk