We asked Elliott Denman, 1956 Olympic race walker, to cover the 20,000m race walk, which was won by Trevor Barron, in 1:23:00. Elliott Denman, who knows the racewalk better than just about anyone else in US, wishes that the US could win a Racewalk gold, and start a walking boom.
Here are Elliott Denman’s thoughts…..
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
June 30, 2012
Zillions of Americans walk.
A fraction of them run.
So just why has running taken over as the sport of choice for so many Americans and the sport of walking been relegated to afterthought status?
I’ve been waiting for the answer much of my life.
Alberto Salazar was asked why Nike has never thrown its incredible innovative genius into designing shoes that walkers would appreciate – and would surely rush out to buy in astounding quantities ?
And they’d be shoes which might also prove to be just the right thing for those who walk for sport?
Alberto’s answer was that the walking sport carries so little interest among Americans – and fellow pedestrians everywhere – that the sales of those amazingly innovative and still-to-be-created shoes some people would like to see would amount to little more than bubkus
To this, my feeling is that Alberto’s response amounts to bubkus.
It is often said that “The Runnng Boom” began the moment Frank Shorter completed the 385th yard after the 26th mile of the 1972 Olympic Marathon in Munich.
That’s bubkus, too.
Check out your history.
The first “Running Boom” really began the day after Johnny Hayes was declared the winner of the 1908 London Olympic marathon when Dorando Pietri was helped over the finish and then disqualified.
Soon the sports pages of the pre-World War I era were filled with the exploits of all manner of running notables. Races popped up everywhere. Everyday folks decided it was cool to run.
The running sport zoomed.
It began heating up again in the 1960s. A Minnesota man, Leonard “Buddy” Edelen had the audacity to train hard as any man had ever done, and wound up breaking the world record.
But Edelen never did win the Olympics and Shorter did and that’s his why his exploits quickly retreated into the shadows.
Fast forward to the final day of June 2012.
Just one American has ever won the Olympic 5000 meters (Bob Schul in 1964.) Just one American has ever won the Olympic 10,000 meters (Billy Mills in 1964.) Just one American has ever won the Olympic 3000-meter steeplechase (Horace Ashenfelter in 1952.) And just one American – since Johnny Hayes in 1908 – has won the Olympic marathon (Shorter in ’72.)
But no American has ever walked to victory in the Olympic Games (well other than George Bonhag in the 1906 1500 meters….and the 1906 Olympics were strictly unofficial, anyway).
So what would actually happen if an American ever walked to victory in the Olympic Games? (At any of the Games’ three events, men’s and women’s 20K, men’s 50k.)
Celebrations everywhere? Ticker tape parades? Joy supreme throughout the land?
Not very darn likely, mind you, but it never hurts to possess (as every Nike person apparently has) a very good imagination.
Just one American walker has ever finished as high as fourth in the 20K at Olympics. That was Rudy Haluza in 1968.
Do we have another chance at doing anything like that anytime soon?
Well, who in the heavens really knows?
But maybe-maybe-maybe the answer happens to be yes.
Maybe-maybe-maybe the answer is Trevor Barron.
He is the 19-year-old out of Bethel Park, PA. (outside Pittsburgh) and a freshman at Colorado College in Colorado Springs who literally walked away from every domestic rival to clinch his ticket to London Sunday morning.
This was a 20,000-meter race (50 laps around t he Hayward Field track) and thus not 20 kilometers (denoting the road.)
Trevor Barron lapped every other walker, broke three records, and finished in 1:23:00.10.
That’s not really a world class time and at 19 Barron isn’t really world class yet, either.
But he is one of the best young fellas you’ll find anywhere this side of Saransk, Russia (where the Russian Walking Co. churns out hot prospects in factory-like profusion.)
Could some glorious achievement by Trevor Baron (or maybe by fellow hot prospects Nick Christie and Tyler Sorenson) actually launch a “Walking Boom” in America?
Could these young ‘uns actually be the start of something big, something really-really-really big?
Could their future exploits actually convince an Alberto Salazar to change his tune?
I can’t really tell you any of this….but The Big Dream has never gone out of style, has it?
“I would love to make race walking more popular,” said Barron. “But I need to be faster to do that. My time today is good but not great. I’m excited to be an Olympian, but that is not my ultimate goal.”
I do know one of my own goals. I’d really-really-really like to turn Alberto Salazar’s point of view into bubkus.