Racewalking

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Racewalkers at the U.S. World Cup Trials in 1987

Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance athletic event. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. Stride length is reduced, so to achieve competitive speeds, racewalkers must attain cadence rates comparable to those achieved by Olympic 800-meter runners[1]—and they must do so for hours at a time since the Olympic events are the 20 km (12.4 mi) race walk (men and women) and 50 km (31 mi) race walk (men only), and 50 mile (80.5 km) events are also held.

Rules[edit]

Men's 20-km walk during the 2005 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. The walker at the right appears to be illegal in that both feet are off the ground, but according to the current rules, an infraction is only committed when the loss of contact is visible to the human eye.[2]

There are two rules that govern racewalking.[3][4] The first dictates that the athlete's back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. Violation of this rule is known as loss of contact. The second rule requires that the supporting leg must straighten from the point of contact with the ground and remain straightened until the body passes directly over it. These rules are judged by the human eye. Athletes regularly lose contact for a few milliseconds per stride which can be caught on film, but such a short flight phase is said to be undetectable to the human eye.

Athletes stay low to the ground by keeping their arms pumping low, close to their hips. If one sees a racewalker's shoulders rising, it may be a sign that the athlete is losing contact with the ground. What appears to be an exaggerated swivel to the hip is, in fact, a full rotation of the pelvis. Athletes aim to move the pelvis forward, and to minimize sideways motion in order to achieve maximum forward propulsion. Speed is achieved by stepping quickly with the aim of rapid turnover. This minimizes the risk of the feet leaving the ground. Strides are short and quick, with pushoff coming forward from the ball of the foot, again to minimize the risk of losing contact with the ground. World-class racewalkers (male and female) can average under four and five minutes per kilometre in a 20-km racewalk.[5]

Distances[edit]

Shaul Ladany (center), in 1969

Races have been walked at distances as short as 3 kilometres (1.9 mi)—at the 1920 Summer Olympics—and as long as 100 km (62.1 mi). Records are noted for the 50 miles (80.5 km); the men's world record for the 50-mile race walk is held by Israeli Shaul Ladany, through his race of 7:23:50 in 1972 in New Jersey, shattering the world mark that had stood since 1935.[6][6][7][8][9] The modern Olympic events are the 20 km (12.4 mi) race walk (men and women) and 50 km (31 mi) race walk (men only).

Judges[edit]

Liu Hong flying in sight of the judges during Women's 20 kilometres walk at the 2013 World Championships in Athletics where she won bronze

There are judges on the course to monitor form. Three judges submitting "red cards" for violations results in disqualification. There is a scoreboard placed on the course so competitors can see their violation status. If the third violation is received, the chief judge removes the competitor from the course by showing a red paddle. For monitoring reasons, races are held on a looped course or on a track so judges get to see competitors several times during a race. A judge could also "caution" a competitor that he or she is in danger of losing form by showing a paddle that indicates either losing contact or bent knees. No judge may submit more than one card for each walker and the chief judge may not submit any cards; it is his or her job only to disqualify the offending walker. Disqualifications are routine at the elite level, such as the famous case of Jane Saville disqualified within sight of a gold medal in front of her home crowd in the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Beginnings[edit]

The start of the 3500 m walk final, 1908 Olympics

Racewalking developed as one of the original track and field events of the first meeting of the English Amateur Athletics Association in 1880. The first racewalking codes came from an attempt to regularize rules for popular 19th century long distance competitive walking events, called Pedestrianism. Pedestrianism had developed, like footraces and horse racing, as a popular working class British and American pastime, and a venue for wagering. Walkers organised the first English amateur walking championship in 1866, which was won by John Chambers, and judged by the "fair heel and toe" rule. This rather vague code was the basis for the rules codified at the first Championships Meeting in 1880 of the Amateur Athletics Association in England, the birth of modern Athletics. With football (soccer), cricket, and other sports codified in the 19th century, the transition from professional Pedestrianism to amateur racewalking was, while relatively late, part of a process of regularisation occurring in most modern sports at this time.

Olympics[edit]

Racewalking is an Olympic athletics (track and field) event with distances of 20 kilometres for both men and women and 50 kilometres for men only. Racewalking first appeared in the modern Olympics in 1904 as a half-mile walk in the 'all-rounder,' the precursor to the 10-event decathlon. In 1908, stand-alone 1,500m and 3,000m racewalks were added, and—excluding 1924—there has been at least one racewalk (for men) in every Olympics since. The women's racewalk became an Olympic event only in 1992, following years of active lobbying by female internationals. A World Cup in racewalking is held biennially, and racewalk events appear in the IAAF Athletics World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games, among others.

World Race Walking Challenge[edit]

Since 2003, the IAAF has organised an annual worldwide competition series in which elite athletes accumulate points for the right to compete in the IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final and to share over 200,000 USD of prize money. The series of televised events takes place in several countries each year including Mexico, Spain, Russia and China.[10]

High school[edit]

Racewalking is sometimes included in high school indoor and outdoor track meets, the rules often more relaxed. The distances walked tend to be relatively short, with the 1500 m being the most commonly held event. Significant racing also occurs at 3 km, 5 km and 10 km, with records kept and annual rankings published.[11]

Top performers[edit]

Men[edit]

20 km[edit]

Mark Athlete Nationality Venue Date
1:16:43 Sergey Morozov  Russia Saransk June 8, 2008
1:17:16 Vladimir Kanaykin  Russia Saransk September 28, 2007
1:17:21 Jefferson Pérez  Ecuador Paris August 23, 2003
1:17:22 Paquillo Fernández  Spain Turku April 28, 2002
1:17:23 Vladimir Stankin  Russia Adler February 8, 2004
1:17:25 Bernardo Segura  Mexico Bergen May 7, 1994
1:17:30 Alex Schwazer  Italy Lugano March 18, 2012
1:17:33 Nathan Deakes  Australia Cixi City April 23, 2005
1:17:36 Zhen Wang  China Taicang March 30, 2012
1:17:38 Valeriy Borchin  Russia Adler February 28, 2009

50 km[edit]

Mark Athlete Nationality Venue Date
3:34:14 Denis Nizhegorodov  Russia Cheboksary May 11, 2008[12]
3:35:27 Yohann Diniz  France Reims March 12, 2011
3:35:47 Nathan Deakes  Australia Geelong December 2, 2006
3:35:59 Sergey Kirdyapkin  Russia London August 11, 2012
3:36:03 Robert Korzeniowski  Poland Paris August 27, 2003
3:36:04 Alex Schwazer  Italy Rosignano Solvay February 11, 2007
3:36:06 Yu Chaohong  China Nanjing October 22, 2005
3:36:13 Zhao Chengliang  China Nanjing October 22, 2005
3:36:20 Han Yucheng  China Nanjing February 27, 2005
3:36:42 German Skurygin  Russia Paris August 27, 2003

Women[edit]

20 km[edit]

Mark Athlete Nationality Venue Date
1:24:501 Olimpiada Ivanova  Russia Adler March 4, 2001
1:24:56 Olga Kaniskina  Russia Adler February 28, 2009
1:25:02 Elena Lashmanova  Russia London August 11, 2012
1:25:08 Vera Sokolova  Russia Sochi February 26, 2011
1:25:09 Anisya Kirdyapkina  Russia Sochi February 26, 2011
1:25:16 Shenjie Qieyang  China London August 11, 2012
1:25:181 Tatyana Gudkova  Russia Moscow May 19, 2000
1:25:201 Olga Polyakova  Russia Moscow May 19, 2000
1:25:27 Elmira Alembekova  Russia Moscow February 18, 2012
1:25:291 Irina Stankina  Russia Moscow May 19, 2000
1:25:32 Olena Shumkina  Russia Adler February 28, 2009
1:25:41 Olimpiada Ivanova  Russia Helsinki August 7, 2005
1:25:46 Tatyana Shemyakina  Russia Adler February 23, 2008
Hong Liu  China Taicang March 30, 2012
1:25:52 Larisa Emelyanova  Russia Adler February 28, 2009
Tatiana Sibileva  Russia Sochi February 20, 2010
  • 1 : These times were achieved without the presence of international judges to officiate the competition and/or post-race doping tests, thus making them invalid for world record status. However, they are accepted as personal best marks for those athletes.

In popular culture[edit]

Racewalking is often derided and made fun of as a contrived or "artificial" sport. In 1992 long time Olympic commentator Bob Costas compared it to a competition for who can whisper the loudest.[13]

Film

Television

  • Almost Live! features a regular sketch of the Speed Walker, played by Bill Nye as a super hero who fights crime while adhering to the competitive rules.[14]
  • Malcolm in the Middle: Episode #70 (Malcolm Holds His Tongue). Hal takes up racewalking and discovers that one of the competitors had been cheating.

Video games

  • Homestarrunner.com: 50K Racewalker. A game where the player must racewalk 50 kilometers in order to win, requiring more than 20 hours to complete.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Belson, Ken. "One Step at a Time? It’s More Complicated Than That" New York Times (August 10, 2012)
  3. ^ "IAAF racewalking rules (see "Definition")". Archived from the original on September 8, 2012.  Retrieved August 21, 2008.[dead link]
  4. ^ IAAF website, discussion of racewalking history and rules Retrieved August 21, 2008.
  5. ^ IAAF official website statistics.
  6. ^ a b Renee Ghert-Zand (January 31, 2012). The Healthiness of a Long-Distance Walker. The Jewish Week. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ Green, David B. (January 14, 2009). "Questions & Answers / A conversation with Shaul P. Ladany". Haaretz. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Shaul Ladany". Jewishsports.net. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  9. ^ Seymour S. Smith (August 19, 1974). "Ladany training to win Olympics in a walk". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ IAAF WRWC.
  11. ^ High School Racewalking website.
  12. ^ "Official IAAF Race Results Cheboksary 2008". iaaf.org. Retrieved August 11, 2012. 
  13. ^ American Way. "Golden Boy: Costas Now". Retrieved August 8, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c Walking on Screen
  15. ^ 50K Racewalker

External links[edit]

Magazines