This is the 3rd Olympics that I am covering the race walk and I have to admit, probably the one I did the least homework in preparation. Truth be told, we were going to skip this Olympics. Sadly, I was unable to get official media credentials and in frustration I was going to have my private little boycott which lead to my wife and I travelling to Ireland, Scotland and England earlier in the summer. However, when John Nunn qualified and both Maria Michta-Coffey and Miranda Melville were on track to qualify we decided to head down to Rio for the Games.
Sadly, the Men's 20km didn't feature any Americans. So we adopted our Aussie friends and planted ourselves in their boisterous cocoon. I was shocked, dare I say appalled at the course. The turns appeared very tight and instead of a 2km loop, it was only 1km. Of course, the Olympics aren't about time, but place and one could say that everyone is at the same disadvantage, but certainly taller athletes will be more challenged than those with a bit of vertical deficiencies. I also found it odd that the numerals on the race numbers were so small. Perhaps this is a new trend, but in an event like the race walk, I would want them to be large and highly readable. Aside from the course, I don't think the athlete could have hoped for a better day. Cool temperatures and partly cloudy skies greeted the 2:30 PM start.
My apologies if part of this report is late. We decided to hop a flight directly after the race so we could check out Iguazu Falls. Hopefully, this will be posted the morning after the race. If we don't have every finisher listed with a photo, we will add them within a day or so. Sorry, we have to balance life with race walking ;).
Given the tight course and large number of competitors, the walkers were certainly packed in like sardines.
Security was tight, but I have to say very kind. Unlike some of the power tripped security guards at races in the States, the Brazilian security politely asked us to step back as the guard dogs sniffed our bags for explosives.
A little pre-race kiss between Dane Bird-Smith and his fiance (even though another woman photo bombed the shot) and we were ready to start.
Of course, there had to be the obligatory koala bear cheering the Aussies on.
When the gun went off it was odd not to see the Russians front and center. With the absence of those walkers serving bans, the field was particularly wide open. Korea's Hyunsub Kim took the reigns early.
Canada's Inaki Gomez leading the pack slightly before the 2km mark.
It was readily evident that there were simply too many elite walkers for too narrow of a race course. Walkers struggled to maintain a straightened leg (clearly not due to fatigue at this point).
The lead pack was deep and it was difficult to guess who would make their move once things opened up a bit.
Some walkers were willing to walk a little more spaced out.