Monday, January 17, 2022

Walking the race at Tokyo Olympics with race walking

The games at Tokyo Olympics have begun to take center stage. In just a matter of time, athletes will be showering in colors of gold, silver, and bronze and the national anthem of the winning country will be on full volume.

Among the various events at the event, Race walking is one of them. What once started as a time pass activity among the high-class people in the victorian era has now become a reason of cheer and hope for the ones competing in it. Race walking was inducted in the Olympics for the first time in 1904.

What is race walking?

Race Walking is a form of walking in which the racer has to walk as fast as possible without losing contact with the ground. It is different from running though. The racer can at no point of time, lose contact with the ground, doing so would lead to disqualification.

Race walking is a progression of steps. There are two rules of racewalking. Firstly, the advancing leg must be straightened from the moment of the first contact with the ground until in the vertical upright position. Secondly, the athlete’s back toe must not leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched the ground.

Further, if a racewalker is shown three warnings (paddles) from different judges, including the chief judge, it leads to disqualification of the athlete. A red paddle means the walker is disqualified.

How did it all begin?

Racewalkers compete in a number of categories, from short sprints like 1500m, to longer distances like 5 Km, 10 Km, 20 Km, and 50 Km (longest foot race in the Olympics). It is believed to have originated in the Victorian era.

Race walking emerged as a sporting event in British, also credited for formulating the rules of the games. In Britain, long-distance competitive walking events were held, known as pedestrianism, which people loved to enjoy. It made its way to the United States in the late 19th century. It started as an indoor game, but with time, rules regarding race walking began to set, which is now the basis of the modern-day race walk.

Race Walking in the Olympics?

Race walking has been around in one form or the other for hundreds of years. At the Olympics, race walking events take place in two categories namely, 20 Km walk and 50 Km walk. It began as a competitive event in the Olympics in 1904 and was clubbed as a part of the ‘All-Around Championship’. In the 1908 Games in London, the sport made its debut as a standalone men’s event, featuring a 3,500 metre and a 10-mile race walk.

In the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, a 10 Km short-distance walk was introduced. While the 50 Km long-distance event was introduced in the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.

The 20 Km, the second category under short distance, was introduced at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne; and women racewalkers became a part of the Olympics in 1992 with a 10 Km race walk. It was upgraded to 20 Km at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

George Larner, a British athlete won the first gold medal in race walking in the men’s 10-mile category at the 1908 London Games.

India at Tokyo Olympics?

The first-ever Indian to participate in Olympic race walking was Ranjit Singh at the 1980 Moscow Games. He finished at 18th place in the men’s 20 Km walk.

This year at the Tokyo Olympics, in the women’s category, Priyanka Goswami, and Bhawna Jat will be representing India. It is the first Olympics for the 24-year-old Goswami who also holds the National record. Meanwhile, in the men’s category, KT Irfan, Sandeep Kumar, and Rahul Rohilla will compete in the 20 Km category.

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