This is Elliott Denman’s fifth column on the 2023 World Outdoor Athletics Championships, and it is on the race walks.
MARTIN AND PEREZ
HIT THE DOUBLE-DOUBLE
FOR TEAM ESPANA
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
The reign of Spain was plain – for all to see and applaud.
“The Caminata Crew” of Team Espana was oh-so-dominant, from the first strides of the men’s 20K racewalk on the opening Saturday morning of the 19th World Championships of Track and Field, to the women’s 20K the next morning to the concluding steps of the women’s 35K race, staged held simultaneously with the men’s 35K the following Thursday.
Through the first 18 editions of the Worlds, Helsinki 1983 to Eugene 2022, Spanish racewalkers had done many big things and climbed assorted podiums. But this display of powerful pedestrianism topped them all.
After taking the men’s 20K title in 1:17:32, Alvaro Martin returned to the iconic Plaza of Heroes Circle, and its
exit route up and down Andrassy Avenue. to claim the 35K crown in 2:24:30.
Countrywoman Maria Perez was equally doubly golden, taking the 20K title in 1:26:51 as a prelude to her 35K triumph in 2:38:40.
With three or four days for recovery time between the races, a lot of doubling was going on.
Ecuador’s Brian Pintado was second in the 35K after his seventh in the 20K.
Canada’s Evan Dunfee was fourth – oh-so-frustratingly – in both of them.
Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom snared second at 20K. then eighth at 35K.
Germany’s Christopher Linke followed the Dunfee pattern with fifths in both of them.
Finland’s Veli-Matti Partanen took seventh at 20K but struggled home 18th at 35K.
Peru’s national treasure, Kimberly Garcia Leon – the sensation of the 2022 Worlds in Oregon with double golds – this time settled for second at 35K after her fourth at 20.
Brazil’s Viviane Lyra improved from eighth at 20K to fourth at 35K.
Greece’s Antigoni Ntrismpioti zoomed from 15th at 20K to third at 35K.
Racewalking is always a what-have-you-done-me-lately game and, one more time, past glories couldn’t cut it in Budapest, as a pair of 2021 Tokyo/Sapporo champions – both from Italy – attested.
Antonella Pamisano – the 20K queen of the 2021 walks – settled for a 20K third this time.
Two years after his position atop the men’s 20K podium in
Japan – Massimo Stano was seventh at 35K this time.
Then, there were the emerging talents.
Australia’s Jemima Montag – sixth at 20K in Japan 2021 – zoomed to a close 20K second this time.
And those on the making-gradual-progress list.
Mexico’s Alexna Gonzalez was sixth at 20K in Japan in 2021 and fifth in Budapest in 2023.
This was the second 35K at Worlds after its Oregon debut a year ago.
But – and here’s the big question looming for all these speediest pedestrians on the planet – will there be a
35K on the program at the 2025 Worlds in Tokyo?
For certain, the 35K will not be contested at the Paris Olympic Games of 2024.
Instead, the all-new brainstorm of a marathon-distance (42.195K) male-female walk team relay will be on the Parisian slate.
The plan: men walk opening-leg 12.195 and third-leg 10Ks. The women will walk second and fourth-leg 10Ks, and bring their national teams home.
It’s liable to be “chaotic,” as USA walk star Nick Christie predicts, with numerous positions shuttling back and forth, forth-and-back. Of course, that may make for some exciting TV. Then again, it might prove disastrous for the national teams that have powerful performers of one gender but not the other.
All these manipulations, it is obvious, are being done in contradiction to race walking’s basic status as a distance sport. And in opposition to most walkers’ sense of dedication to their craft.
Every Olympic Games from 1932 to 2021 (with the exception of 1976) featured a men’s 50K (31.1-mile) racewalk. And these stamina-laden 50K athletes took immense, forever pride in taking part in “the longest and toughest event on the Olympic program.” (The 50K is nearly five miles beyond the marathon distance.)
Thanks most prominently to the dedicated campaigning – and legal challenges – posed to World Athletics by USA’s Erin Taylor-Talcott, the 50K women’s event joined the men’s 50K on the program of the 2017 London and 2019 Doha Worlds but never made the 2021 Olympic schedule.
For whatever reason, though – it took too darn long, it was too darn fatiguing, it wasn’t the network’s vision of telegenic programming – the 50K event was bounced from the Games after 2021 and replaced by the 35K in 2022 and 23.
If no individual 50K or 35K racewalk at the Games, though, why not a marathon-distance individual event (with team scoring) for Paris 2024? It would have been an excellent and logical compromise.
But, no, it will be this newfangled marathon relay we’ll be seeing in France.
But, yes, count on this – the clearcut early favorite is certain to be Team Espana.