Thursday, 5 July 2012

Something's Gotta Give....

Being a fledgeling in the race walk world, I was a bit reluctant to write this post (as in, "who am I to question those who know more than me"). I decided to go ahead with it, however, hoping that some discussion might ensue, as this is an issue that bugs me. Here goes....

One of the two official rules of Race Walking (as defined by the USATF) is:

"Race walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs."

Maybe it's just me or maybe it's because the digital world we live in makes it more obvious, but it seems that every still photograph or slowed-down video of elite race walkers shows them in flight (loss of contact). Pushing and varying the technique to get more and more speed makes the walker vulnerable to this, and, ironically perhaps, it is just this increased speed which makes it more difficult for judges to see the loss of contact. For something as regulated as an Olympic sport, this seems far too subjective and far too amorphous a rule to work. But what is the alternative?  I don't know - it must be just as frustrating for judges and competitors as it is for us mere observers  (in a relatively recent booklet on RW judging guidelines for officials they were cautioned not to lie down in order to better see foot contact...). Short of some kind of "digital contact sensor" in shoes*....something's gotta give.
Race walk rules have changed a lot over the years and maybe it's time for more change, but isn't that contact with the ground the very thing that makes walking distinct from running? What does the future hold for "our" sport?

* maybe I've got something there? ;)


  1. I agree. It appears to me that the line between racewalking and running has been largely blurred. That's especially true for racewalkers who are lifting.

  2. Yes I have just watched the Russian woman who is wining the 20K race in the Olympics in slow motion and she is lifting off the ground. Honesty would dictate they get shoe sensors.