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Keep the 50km Walk Alive

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  • Keep the 50km Walk Alive

    Chris Maddocks, the IAAF Race Walking Committee, the WAC, and the IOC are all focused on the wrong issue. It is not whether the 50km walk should be kept alive, but rather if the mode of progression in Olympic and International Race-Walking can still qualify as walking. Photographic evidence shows that in too many instances contact with the ground is not maintained, and the style is more akin to straight legged skipping or straight legged running. With a very fast rate of leg movement the human eye has difficulty detecting infringements and needs to be enhanced by photo evidence.

    This brings the discipline into disrepute and moves it into the zero credibility zone. Other sports and other disciplines do not have a problem with photographic evidence, so why do race-walkers? Is it because they fear being exposed as frauds, cheats who play Russian roulette with the judges?

    The British race-walkers of the 70's and 80's - Nihill, Thompson, Middleton, Selby, Sutherland, Lawton, and many,many, others of that era, were without question walking, and in those days it was one call and you were out. It is the farce of the current mode of progression that needs dealing with and not the entertainment value of scrapping the 50km and opting for a shorter distance. If International race-walkers are not walking then the discipline is reduced to somekind of bizarre pantomime that cannot be taken seriously.

    I would have more respect for an Olympic egg and spoon race, than watch the current crop of "walkers" mock, debase, and despise the art of walking.

  • #2
    But the rule has always been "so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs". Therefore, this does allow for a brief period of "flight time" - a study has shown that even highly experienced and trained race walking judges cannot reliably detect a flight time of less than 0.045 seconds. So, if you're seeing photos of walkers where there's an inch or two of "flight", then that probably fits within that 0.045 seconds. Other posters here know I'm a race walking fan and, to be honest, I don't see many photos at all of race walkers where the flight is more than a couple of inches.

    It's not for racewalkers to set the rules. Using photographic/video evidence has not, in my memory, been suggested by the governing body but shoe sensors have recently been mooted. It's important to note that the racewalkers polled were not in opposition to this technology, provided a) it is properly tested before being introduced and b) it is available affordably to all race walkers and race organisers at all levels.

    I don't believe that race walkers are mocking or debasing the sport. They're just pushing to the limit what's allowable under the rules, just as athletes in many sports do. They know the consequences if they push too far and disqualifications are common enough that they remain an effective curb on "illegal" technique in most cases.

    As for the 50km ... I hope the campaign is successful and they keep it! Yes, it's niche but the 35km will be as well. At it's best the 50km produces great drama (e.g., the men's race in Doha 2019) and really tests endurance in a way the 35km won't. Also, the 35km is just too close to the 20km and introduces the possibility of the same athletes excelling in both events (currently some excel at both 20km and 50km but by no means all or most).


    • #3
      Ah yes, the old photographic evidence nonsense, The greater use of high speed, digital photography means these shots are more prevalent, many photographers of long standing will cop to this. It did happen previously that photographs of walkers showed lost contact, it is just they were much harder to come by, I have several.

      interesting that you name a very bitter old man, as a model, who claimed all judges where acting dishonestly at one race and put it in writing, including to one of the judges who actual gave the athlete he was most exercised over, a red card on the day. All this on the basis of 5 seconds of slow motion TV coverage of the leader, he libelled all the judges and athletes.

      The heyday of the athletes you mention were the 1960s and early 1970s. I refer to my comment on photographic evidence.

      If you use video evidence (a more commonly promoted idea), it means potentially weeks of analysis to get a result (ie: 60 athletes x 250 minutes (allowing for the slowest) x half speed) is 500 hours. Given the logical restriction of how long one can peer at a computer screen in concentrated periods. That is before we turn to the accepted video system, do we demand PAL because the rest of the world may take issue... Do you photograph all the field? Do you photograph all stages of the race?

      The question of sensors was always going to fail, the system proposed never go beyond a test session, a person with a fundamental understanding of electronics etc could devise a system to block or distort such a signal.

      There is an old joke about Britannia ruling the waves but Britain waiving the rules. Your reference to " one call and you were out" was not in line with the prevailing rules of the event, in addition they chose to ignore the part of the rule pertaining to straightening the leg in the vertically upright position.

      The Race Walking committee does not exist .

      "...straight legged running." This is a biomechanically falsehood, running is a front drive action, force generated by the front leg to create a bounding action, race walking is a rear drive action, the front foot on landing acts to stabilise, drive is generated by pushing off the front foot. There is a technique, used by some internationally, where the front leg, is pushed out straight and makes contact on a return motion, pushing backward. This has a 'pawing of the ground effect'.

      As for skipping, it requires upward drive of the front leg, something that may not be as achievable by us in our mid 60s' or older but easily to do if younger, this is not happening in the races, otherwise physical wear and tear would remove it. In a 50km there tends to be a frequency of negative splitting.

      Until 2012 we never used photographic or video evidence to amend athletics results, even then we only see field events reversed (Women's Hammer in 2012 Olympics). Does that mean that we discredit all results where officials fail to make the correct judgement? I sincerely hope not.


      • #4
        Thank you to those who responded to my post, and for taking the time to express your views. There are several questions to consider:
        1) Can the mode of progression in Olympic and International race-walking be fairly defined as walking with particular regard to unbroken contact with the ground?
        2) Is the human eye rule still an adequate criteria for judging given its limitations?
        3)Is it in the interests of fairness, truthfulness, and transparency, as well as the long established definition of walking, that photographic evidence should be used to assist the judging process?
        4)Should the human eye rule be rewritten?
        5) Should the definition of walking be re-defined?

        My view is that revisions are both necessary and urgent, and there is a need for rule changes,or,in the alternative, a new definition of walking, or both. These are critical issues for the discipline, and they have been swept under the carpet for decades with no adequate resolution. Continuing to neglect them tarnishes the image and reputation of race-walking, and raises questions about its integrity and honesty. it is, it seems to me, pointless to discuss the merits or otherwise of 50km, 35km, or 20km, if the questions relating to the mode of progression and judging are not examined and resolved.

        Thank you again for your contributions to the debate. Further comments and views are welcome.


        • #5

          Sounds normal to me. After every bump in distance I have noticed more and new pain, usually only for the first time. Later down the road if you take on another 50 mile of similar elevation and terrain you will probably notice you will not have as much pain post race. It hurts now but you will forget all about the pain while you are signing up for Kodi nox the next one.
          Last edited by winkybill; 03-05-21, 10:50.