Slovakia’s Matej Toth made a decisive break 2km from the line to add Olympic gold to his world title as he won the 50km race walk on Friday.
In punishingly hot conditions, the Slovak overtook defending Olympic champion Jared Tallent of Australia at the end of a race that saw a host of walkers pull up or be disqualified.
Toth timed 3hr 40min 58sec, Tallent taking silver at 18sec, with Japan’s Hirooki Arai a further 8sec adrift to bag bronze.
France’s Yohann Diniz went through 30km in 2:11.29.
Canada’s Evan Dunfee, who was leading the chasing pack, had made up 12 seconds on Diniz in the preceding 5km, and suddenly the Frenchman pulled up, allowing the Canadian to take the lead.
Diniz was soon back up and walking, but struggling, on the loop down the Pontal beach area southwest of central Rio de Janeiro.
The field was filled with walkers falling by the wayside, 11 pulling out before the 40km mark, including last year’s 20km world champion Miguel Angel Lopez, and a further 11 disqualified.
With 10km to go, Tallent had moved into the lead, going through 40km in 2:56:54, chased by Arai.
Coming into the business end of the race, Tallent had built up a 30-second lead over Toth with 6km to walk.
But the Slovak dug deep and ate into the Australian’s lead, reeling him in by the 48km mark and holding on for a dramatic victory.
Diniz’s stop-start race saw him finish eighth.