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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 400-meter runners—and they must do so for hours at a time since the Olympic events are the 20 kilometer race walk and 50-kilometer (31 mi) race walk.

Contents

Rules

Men's 20 km walk during the 2005 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. The men second from the left and on the far right have illegally lost contact with the ground.

There are two rules that govern racewalking.[1][2] 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 over it. These rules are judged by the human eye, which creates controversy at today's high speeds. Athletes may sometimes lose contact for a few milliseconds per stride which can be caught on high-speed film, but such a short flight phase is 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 seven and eight minutes per mile (or under four and five minutes per kilometre, respectively), in a 20 km (12.4 mile) racewalk.[3]

Judges

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.

Birth of sport

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

Racewalking is an Olympic athletics (track and field) event with distances of 20 kilometers for both men and women and 50 kilometers 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 1906, 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

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.[4]

High school

Racewalking is sometimes included in high school indoor and outdoor track meets. The distances walked tend to be relatively short, under two miles, with the 1500 m racewalk being the most commonly held event. Times under seven minutes (by girls) and under six (by boys) have been recorded for this distance.[5]

U.S. Army Sgt. John Nunn racewalks during the 2007 Military World Games competition in Hyderabad, India

Top performers

Men

20 km

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 Francisco Javier Fernández  Spain Turku April 28, 2002
1:17:25 Bernardo Segura  Mexico Bergen May 7, 1994
1:17:33 Nathan Deakes  Australia Cixi City April 23, 2005
1:18:04 Bu Lingtang  China Beijing April 7, 1994
1:18:13 Pavol Blažek  Czechoslovakia Hildesheim September 9, 1990
1:18:20 Andrey Perlov  Soviet Union Moscow May 26, 1990
1:19:08 Mikhail Shchennikov  Soviet Union Kiev July 30, 1988
1:19:12 Axel Noack  East Germany Karl-Marx-Stadt June 21, 1987

50 km

Mark Athlete Nationality Venue Date
3:34:13 Denis Nizhegorodov  Russia Cheboksary May 5, 2008
3:35:47 Nathan Deakes  Australia Geelong December 2, 2006
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
3:37:26 Valeriy Spitsyn  Russia Moscow May 21, 2000
3:37:41 Andrey Perlov  Soviet Union Leningrad August 5, 1989

Women

20 km

Mark Athlete Nationality Venue Date
1:24:50 Olimpiada Ivanova  Russia Adler March 4, 2001
1:25:18 Tatyana Gudkova  Russia Moscow May 19, 2000
1:25:20 Olga Polyakova  Russia Moscow May 19, 2000
1:25:29 Irina Stankina  Russia Moscow May 19, 2000
1:25:59 Tamara Kovalenko  Russia Moscow May 19, 2000
1:26:22 Wang Yan  China Guangzhou November 19, 2001
1:26:22 Yelena Nikolayeva  Russia Cheboksary May 18, 2003
1:26:23 Wang Liping  China Guangzhou November 19, 2001
1:26:28 Irina Pudovkina  Russia Adler March 12, 2005
1:26:31 Olga Kaniskina  Russia Beijing August 21, 2008
1:26:35 Liu Hongyu  China Guangzhou November 19, 2001

Notable racewalkers

Magazines

In popular culture

Film

Television

  • 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.[6]

References

External links








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