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Racewalking is a distance event in the sport of Athletics. It is distinguished from running by the biomechanics of movement. Racewalkers achieve speed by pushing the leg forward with the hamstring and gluteus as the dominant muscles. Runners achieve speed by lifting the leg from the ground with the quadricep. Racewalkers aim to keep their bodies low to the ground, with shoulders steady and arms pumping through the hip. Speed is influenced by the strength of the arms and rapidity of leg movement. At maximum efficiency a racewalker will seem to skim over the ground. As a racewalker tires and loses technique, movement becomes jerky and the athlete may begin to "lift". This is not desirable for maximum efficiency.
There are two rules that govern racewalking. One is the lifting rule -- the athlete's back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. The second is called "creeping', when the supporting leg does not straighten as the body passes over it. These rules are judged by the naked eye, which creates controversy at today's high speeds.
Athletes stay low to the ground by keeping their arms pumping low close to their hips. If one sees a racewalker's shoulders rising, it may be a sign that the athlete is losing contact with the ground. What appears to be an exaggerated swivel to the hip is , in fact, a full rotation of the pelvis. Athletes aim to move the pelvis forward, and to minimize sideways motion in order to achieve maximum forward propulsion. Speed is achieved by stepping quickly with the aim of rapid turnover. This minimizes the risk of the feet leaving the ground. Strides are short and quick, with pushoff coming forward from the ball of the foot, again to minimize the risk of lifting off the ground. World-class racewalkers (male and female) can walk a mile (1.6 km) in under six minutes.
There are judges on the course to monitor form and three judges submitting "red cards" for violations results in disqualification. There is a scoreboard placed on the course so competitors can see their violation status. If the third violation is received, the chief judge removes the competitor from the course by showing a red paddle. For monitoring reasons, races are held on a looped course or on a track so judges get to see competitors several times during a race. A judge could also "warn" a competitor that he or she is in danger of losing form by showing a paddle that indicates either lifting or bent knees. Disqualifications are routine at the elite level, such as the famous case of Jane Saville disqualified within sight of a gold medal in front of her home crowd in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Racewalking is an Olympic sport with distances of 20 kilometers for both men and women and 50 kilometers for men only. The women's racewalk became an Olympic event only in 1992, following years of active lobbying by female internationals. A World Cup event in racewalking is held biannually. Fitness-wise, it is said to exceed the caloric requirements of running because of stronger arm motion and less efficiency than running. Racewalking is also beneficial because of lower impact than running.
While racewalking is the official name for the sport, many people who are not familiar with the event call it speedwalking, as racers walk at a fast pace. This term is disliked by racewalkers, as it is the term that was used by those in the fitness industry (i.e. not track & field) to denote extra exertion while walking, but without any of the rules explained above.
- World Class Racewalking
- Race Walking Record
- WALK! Magazine
Racewalking in film
- Walk Don't Run: (Columbia Pictures Corporation)A 1966 Cary Grant movie, revolving around race walking at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
- Rael's Racewalker: (Acropolis Films, LLC) A 2005 documentary film adapted from footage of an actual World Masters Championship Racewalk event.
- Rocketboom episode on racewalking.
Top 10 performers
- Accurate as of January 1, 2006.
Other famous racewalkers
- Capt. Barclay (Robert Barclay-Allardice)
- Ernesto Canto
- Yuling Chen
- Andrej Chylinkski
- Maurizio Damilano
- Vladimir Golubnichi
- George Goulding
- Joy Gregory
- Jerzy Hausleber (coach)
- Bengt Kannenberg
- Robert Korzeniowski
- Jack Mortland
- Dave Romanksy
- Henry Laskau
- Ron Laird
- Kerry Saxby
- Ron Weigel
- Larry Young
- Ron Zinn
- Taylor Burns
Categories: Events in athletics | Individual sports | Walking