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Italian strides to 20km walk gold

ATHENS, Greece -- Italy's Ivano Brugnetti broke away from Spain's Francisco Fernandez in the closing stages of the men's 20km walk to win in one hour 19 minutes 40 seconds.

Fernandez, second in last year's World Championships, had to settle for the silver again, coming home five seconds behind the 1999 50km world champion.

Australia's Nathan Deakes hung on for the bronze medal in 1:20.02, with only the length of the backstraight of the Olympic stadium separating all three men.

The medals were decided just after the halfway point, when the trio strode clear of the rest of the field.

Poland's Robert Korzeniowski, the Sydney Olympics gold medalist, did not defend his title, prefering to concentrate his energies on the longer 50km walk later in the athletics programme.

While the walkers were defying temperatures nearing 30 degrees centigrade on the streets of Athens, the first day of track and field competition was underway on Friday.

In early highlights, Sweden's Christian Olsson, the world champion in the triple jump, easily qualified for Sunday's final with a massive leap of 17.68 meters.

Compatriot Carolina Kluft, a firm favorite for the women's heptahlon, also made a solid start with a 13.21 seconds clocking in the first event, the 100 meters hurdles and followed it up with a superb 1.91 metre clearance in the high jump. Kluft has a clear lead after two events.

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