The 20k racewalk is the topic of Elliott Denman’s Day nine blog. I wanted to get it posted, not just because I do not want to risk the ire of the 1956 Olympian, but because the walks are tough and demand respect, focus, and dedication!
The walks were moved on Saturday to 7 am, due to the heat, Sunday should be 105-113, so please stay safe! photo by Kevmofoto
DAY 7 OLYMPIC TRIALS BLOG
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
SPRINGFIELD, OREGON – Question: Name the only Olympic event that’s never seen an American athlete, male or female, climb onto the Games medal podium?
Think out of the box, you mainstream track and field fans.
Think of a distance event that’s not a running race.
Think of an event that prescribes a designated form of progression.
Think of an event that requires the approval of a panel of well-trained judges.
Think an event that’s one of the most commonplace daily human activities – but this variation of it’s a
whole heck of a lot faster.
Got you stumped?
And the answer is….the 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) racewalk.
The 20K racewalk has been a men’s Olympic event since the 1956 Melbourne Games. The 20K has been an Olympic event for women since the 2000 Sydney Games.
The only American 20K racer, male or female, ever to come within sniffing distance a medal all these years later has been New Yorker Rudy Haluza, a Queens College graduate and Air Force flight officer, with his fourth place at the Mexico City Games of 1968.
All that said, it’s now safe to say that there won’t be a medal-challenging performance by American 20Kracewalker at next month’s Tokyo Games, either.
The USA Olympic Trials 20K races, for men and women, were magnificently staged road events
Saturday morning in downtown Springfield. Thirty took part, the 15 men starting at 7 am and the
15 women at 7:01.
Every effort was made to create a fast racing situation. A decent-sized crowd turned out for the
early morning event. Race organizers even brought out local cheerleaders to encourage maximum speed.
And winners Nick Christie (1:30.48) and Robyn Stevens (1:35.13), of Vacaville, California, who happen to be very-very-very good friends, training partners, and the love of each other’s life, gave it their very best shot
amid all the civic festivities.
But when all the numbers were churned, and the winning times, as well as the results of many major races held from the pre-Covid days of May 2019 to July 1, 2021, will be thrown into the World Athletics hopper, it surely seems to tell us that only Stevens is even likely to earn a trip to Sapporo, Japan, where the races have been relegated from Tokyo.
It would require a drastically improved change of fortune for Christie to win the World Athletics points battle and get to the starting line in Sapporo.
So more questions:
Why, when so many millions of Americans are active walkers -check out all your local parks, boardwalks, gyms, and recreation zones – aren’t the best of them fast enough to challenge the best of the rest of the world?
Why is the art of racewalking, such a standard element in major track and field events in much of the rest of the world, not really an element embraced by the multitudes who follow the results of most American meets?
Why are American high school programs and collegiate schedules – the backbone of historic American dominance of world track and field – so generally neglectful of racewalking? (At the moment, racewalking is standard only for the high school boys and girls of the state of Maine and the girls of New York State; and the small-school collegians of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and certainly not the mega-schools of the NCAA.)
Why? Why? Why?
Heavens knows that Nick Christie and Robyn Stevens are dedicated/hard-training/super-motivated athletes who gave it their very best shots and came out as winners on the streets of Springfield this Saturday morning.
Sure it would lover-ly to see these two embraced with as much Olympic-year enthusiasm
as their nation’s sprinters, hurdlers, distance runners, leapers, throwers, and multi-eventers.
But don’t count on it happening anytime soon. Then again, don’t cry for Christie and Stevens, either.
They knew what they were getting into when they first ventured into the racewalking game, years and years ago.
It’s a basic fact of their event’s life.
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