The 2003 World Athletics Championships got under way Saturday morning despite overcast skies, with the first gold medal at the ninth championships going to Ecuador.

Jefferson Perez captured the first gold medal of the Championships Saturday morning, winning the men's 20 kilometer walk in 1:17:21 hours. The 1996 Olympic gold medalist beat favored Spaniard Francisco Javier Fernandez by 39 seconds. Roman Rasskazov of Russia settled for the bronze medal, 46 seconds off the winning pace.

Opening qualifying heats are also being run in the 100, 400, 800 and 1500 meters and 3000 meter steeplechase. In addition, several events in the women's heptathlon are being contested, along with qualifying in the shot put, hammer throw, triple jump, high jump, discus throw and pole vault. Stacy Dragila of the United States, the two-time defending champion in the women's vault is ready.

"Right now, I feel very confident in what I'm doing on the track, and things are coming together, and I see things, and the confidence is rising," she said. " So I'm looking forward to starting the competition with the prelims, and going into the finals on Monday, knowing that I've been there, done that before, and let's do it again."

The two other gold medals up for grabs on Day One include the men's shot put and the women's 10,000 meters.