Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic Sports: The 20km "Walk"

Hoosierfan is back again to give his take on the absurd Olympic event of the 20km walk. That's right, walk, not run.

The racewalk, or the 20km Walk as it is referred to officially, is a kind of strange event at the Olympics.

The rules itself, according to wikipedia are:
"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."

A guy in my fraternity in college was a nationally ranked race-walker, and they walk pretty damn fast - nearly as fast as I run, and probably faster than most decent runners. For instance, at this year's Olympics, the men finished their 20km walk in 80 minutes. That's 4 minutes per mile or rather a little under 6 minutes, 30 seconds per mile... while walking!

That said, I was watching the women's race-walk on Wednesday night- and, after watching for about 20 seconds, I thought, "hey, it kind of looks like they're running, not walking!"
In fact, I was pretty sure that they were all breaking the rules - they look like they were somewhere between a walk and a run, and it kind of looks like they're some weird kind of lemming.

Twenty seconds later, the announcers show close-ups of the walkers to demonstrate that none of them are legitimately walking... and that they are ALL breaking the rules! The announcers' conclusion was that this event completely depends on the judges. Apparently, in the race I saw, the judges did start disqualifying racewalkers. When I went to bed at 2 in the morning, halfway through the race, 3 had been disqualified, and 2 more were on the brink of disqualification! Nonetheless, I say, get rid of this sport, or just call it running.

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