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Three walks to remember

Athletes compete in the men's 50km race walk athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships on The Mall in central London on August 13, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVASDANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

So just like that we're faced with the 10th and final day of the 2017 IAAF World Championships, but thankfully the day will build gradually to a crescendo starting with intriguing race walking in the morning session.

Many Africans would not even be awake by the time the first event of Sunday, the 50km Race Walk, begins at 8:45 (CAT). This year's event is unique in that the 49 competing men will be joined by seven women on course too -- they were a late addition to the championships' programme meaning a first-ever women's 50km world champion will be crowned.

As it happens, Portugal's Inês Henriques is the clear favourite to take the women's title having set 4:08:26 back in January -- 2017's best by almost 14 minutes. Her most likely companions on the podium (if all goes according to plan for the 37-year-old) should come from the Chinese duo of Hang Yin and Shuqing Yang or Kathleen Burnett from the USA, but they'll need Henriques to be well off that blistering early-season form.

As it is, the rarity of this distance for women and vagaries of race walking rules mean that any result is really possible.

Even more so in the men's competition due to the number of competitors, and the possibility of team tactics against strong individuals.

Looking at the season's world leading times again marks Norway's Havard Haukenes (best of 3:43.40) and Rafal Augustyn of Poland out as favourites in the absence of Russia's Dementiy Cheparev, this year's world lead, and late injury withdrawal of Jared Tallent from Australia.

There is also the mercurial Yohann Diniz, the 39-year-old French world record-holder who epitomises the fact that mental strength could take you to great heights in this sport while fragility of it on the day can leave you disheartened through disqualification.

Mexico's Jose Leyver Ojeda, Evan Dunfee (Canada -- 4th at Rio 2016) and Wenbin Niu of China could also come into reckoning ahead of a group of walkers whose times in 2017 are three or more minutes down on Haukenes'.

Sunday's 'morning session' will also see the race walking events at 20km take place but this time in separate women's (13:20, CAT) and men's (15:20, CAT) races.

Considering 20km is the usual distance for women's races, there is a healthier number of competitors (61) and in theory a wider range of potential medallists. However, Russia and China are the countries which seem to take race walking most seriously and their athletes head the women's world lead list for 2017.

China have there full allotment in Xiuzhi Lyu (who won bronze at last year's Olympic Games), Na Wang and Jiayu Yang but there will only be one Russian, Klavdiia Afanaseva, in the field. All four are capable of 1 hour 26 minute times and will be disappointed if they're not in the battle for gold.

Mexico's Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez, the 2016 IAAF Race Walking champion and Rio 2016 silver medallist, as well as the Italians Eleonora Giorgi (who hasn't set a a 2017 time) and Antonella Palmisano are best placed to compete for podium places should the favourites falter for some reason on the day.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia's Yehualeye Beletew and Askale Tiksa will ensure African presence in the race.

The men's race will see 64 athletes looking to triumph on The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace.

Again Russia only has one competitor, Serge Shirobokov, who's their leading walker having set 2017's 4th best time. The top three for the year, China's Kaihua Wang, Eiki Takahashi and Isamu Fujisawa (both Japan) are also walking on Sunday afternoon suggesting that a fast time in the 1 hour 18 minute range could be in the offing.

Germany's Christopher Linke has it in him to match that but it may be too fierce for Dane Bird-Smith, the Australian who set his personal best in winning bronze at Rio 2016, Korea Republic's Hyunsub Kim and Alvaro Martin from Spain.

Of African interest will be the presence of Kenyans Samuel Ireri Gathimba (a 1:19.24 walker at his best) and Simon Wachira as well as Lebogang Shange from South Africa.