The 2012 Olympics are now complete and it’s time to reflect on where we are with race walking in the USA. To evaluate the results, we need to look at the results in context.
US Olympic Summary
The US sent only three walkers, one for each race. This is because we didn’t have two A-standard walkers (sub 3:59 50km, sub 1:22:30 Men’s 20km, and sub 1:33:30 Women’s 20km) in any event. Given that as a backdrop, what can we expect from our athletes? As a coach, I’ve always said, “Any PR is a good PR.” Walking your fastest time on the biggest stage of Track and Field has to be looked at as a major accomplishment. Maria Michta walked a PR, set an American Olympic record, and walked faster than the A standard. She walked a 1:32:27 finishing 29th out of a field of 61. John Nunn walked a PR of 4:03:28, finishing 43rd out of a field of 56, and Trevor Barron walked a 1:22:46, bettered Coach Tim Seaman’s Olympic 20km record, and finished 26th out of a field of 56. Personally, I felt the group exceeded my expectations. Sure Trevor could have walked faster, but he was only 33 second back at 10km and picked up two red cards. Without the calls, he might have not only gotten the American Olympic record, but the overall American 20km race walking record. Another race walking friend said, “Not embarrassing,” which actually says a lot over past years.
US Olympic Trials Summary
As we step back to what got us here, we need to look at race walking as a whole. Sending one race walker in each event cannot be the goal for 2016. We must strive for full squads. I feel we are at a precipice for American race walking. Much like when we had the training program at Arco we have a group of dedicated athletes and a dedicated coach. While it would be better if we could have a large number of athletes living at the Olympic Training Center many of you may not know that Trevor Barron has lived there over the past year. This was paid for via USATF/USOC. Other athletes are getting by and living in the area under the guidance of Tim Seaman.
These athletes have had support from USATF development funds as well as NARI (North American Race Walking Institute). They include Trevor Barron, Maria Michta, Lauren Forgeus, and Miranda Melville.
In addition, Erin Gray, Dan Seriani, and Patrick Stroupe received funds for international competition opportunities like training camp in Germany
The results of these efforts were very good. Below are the top three performances at the last few Olympic Trials. With the exception of Tim, these athletes are young enough that they should all improve by 2016 and the Rio Games. This is a great outlook for American Race Walking.
2012 Men’s 20K
1] Trevor Barron, 1:23:00.10
2] Tim Seaman, 1:27:29.48
3] Nick Christie, 1:29:47.30
2012 Women’s 20K
1] Maria Michta, 1:34: 53.33
2] Miranda Melville, 1:34:56.92
3] Erin Gray, 1:35:40.05
2012 Men’s 50K
1] John Nunn, 4:04:41
2] Tim Seaman, 4:05:50
3] Ben Shorey, 4:17:30
2008 Men’s 20K
1] Kevin Eastler, U.S. Air Force, 1:27:08
2] Matthew Boyles, Miami Valley TC, 1:28:20
3] Patrick Stroupe, unattached , 1:29:17
2008 Women’s 20K
1] Joanne Dow, Adidas, 1:35:11
2] Teresa Vaill, Walk USA, 1:36:35
3] Susan Armenta, unattached, 1:42:12
2008 Men’s 50K
1] Philip Dunn, 4:12:55
2] Matthew Boyles, 4:14:30
3] Benjamin Shorey, 4:27:14
2004 Women’s 20K
1] Teresa Vail, 1:35:57
2] Joanne Dow, 1:38:42
3] Bobbi Jo Chapman, 1:39:01
2004 Men’s 20K
1] Tim Seaman, 1:25:40
2] John Nunn, 1:26:23
3] Kevin Eastler, 1:28:49
1] Curt Clausen, 3:58:24
2] Tim Seaman, 4:08:06
3] Philip Dunn, 4:10:37
2000 Men’s 20K
1] 1:25:41 Tim Seaman, NYAC
2] 1:26:38 Kevin Eastler, U.S. Air Force
3] 1:28:06 Andrew Herman, Multnomah AC
2000 Women’s 20K
1] Michelle Rohl,1:32:39
2] Yueling Chen,1:33:40
3] Debbi Lawrence,1:33"48
2000 Men's 50 K
1] Curt Clausen 3:56:16
2] Andrew Hermann 3:57:54
3] Philip Dunn 4:07:00
1996 Men's 20 Km
1] Curt Clausen,1:29:50
2] Tim Seaman 1:30:27
3] Gary Morgan 1:31:0
1996 Men's 50 K
1] Allen James 3:59:11
2] Andrew Hermann 4:07:52
3] Andrzej Cyylinski 4:09:22
1996 Women's 10K
1] Debbi Lawrence 46:05
2] Michelle Rohl 46:37
3] Victoria Herazo 48:12
The state of judging race walking is in trouble. Sadly, this does not apply solely to the US. In my opinion, we have a major issue in judging in that the judges are not judged. No real scientific methods are applied to determining if a judge is making the correct calls. Most sports police their judges/umpires/referees in some fashion. Race walking does not. It starts with the exam. The IAAF uses an exam that is a popularity contest. Basically they vote on the answers as they watch the video. This presupposes that the judges in the room know what they are doing. The rule says we should judge to the human eye. I agree with this, but if someone’s human eye is not sensitive enough or that person doesn’t understand how to interpret what they see, this presents a huge issue.
I propose that a set amount of time off the ground should be set for what “to the human eye” means. For argument’s sake let’s say 30-40ms. Then if a person receives a proposal for disqualification for loss of contact, one could check “the film” and see if they were actually off that amount of time. The “checking” would be done not for the race results, but to see if the judge was making the right call. The judges could learn from this and improve their accuracy in the future. If they fail to learn, then they shouldn’t be judging anymore. This could be done simply with a helmet cam style camera that records all that the judges see. Obviously it might not be used at smaller, local races, but could easily be used at more significant meets.
This is also true for bent knee infractions. I am amazed at the number of proposals for disqualification for bent knee at high level races. Walkers who look beautiful to the human eye and on video all too often receive cards for bent knee violations. I can only assume these judges do not understand the intent of the rule.
Please note, I have high speed video evidence backing this up. At the US Olympic Trials one walker was off the ground for over 50 milliseconds and received no proposals for disqualification. Meanwhile those off 30 milliseconds received multiple.
While I am a biased opinion, I do feel the efforts of NARI (North American Race Walking Institute) had a positive and significant effect. We held many fundraisers over the years and that work directly lead to support for athlete and opportunities for them to excel. Instead of continuing to step backward, American race walking has turned a corner and is improving.
AC Jaime’s grant to expose elementary school students to race walking is innovative and just getting started. We have 20,000 books printed and funds provided by USATF to train the trainer. Individuals will go out to schools and educate the teachers, leave them with books and other materials with the intent they will teach their kids to race walk. Working from the ground up is a long term approach, but we can still help those in the system now.
Therefore, we are announcing that you can now donate for the 2016 fund. Our goal is to field a complete team for the Rio Olympics and hopefully have a top 10 performance. This will take a lot of work, but we have a dedicate group of athletes. Hopefully, more groups like Tim’s will take root and our numbers will grow.
Donate today at www.narionline.org.
Interest in Race Walking on the Internet
Many of you may not know my day job is as a Computer Science professor at Drexel University. It gives me a unique view of the race walking world because I live in the cyber world. Starting racewalk.com on a whim in 1995 I am amazed at the reach the internet has grown to. With all the traditional media attention we recently received for race walking, I thought I might comment on what the results of that were on racewalk.com.
Since August 1st, I have received over 90,000 hits my sites. Most of this was racewalk.com. My typical average hit count is 1/3rd of that. This represented 19,000+ unique people visiting the site. 58% of the people were considered bounces. Which means they came and basically left, not interested in race walking. 75% of the people came from search engines, where racewalk.com is listed first for most race walking related categories. They searched for the typical things, like “race walking”, “racewalking”, “race walking technique,” “race walking rules” etc. There were some new search phrases like “Olympic Race Walking”, “speed walking Olympics”, and even some searchs for John and Maria. Notice Trevor wasn’t listed. My assumption is people learned John and Maria’s name from the Today Show. Lesson to be learned, all publicity is good publicity.
In terms of geography, approximately 15x the visits came from the US as the next country (United Kingdom) followed by Canada, Australia, and Italy.
Sadly for me, I didn’t see a significant bump in sales. I did however, see a large bump in google ad revenue, which I assume means the they had a large number of relevant ads.
One addition I made to my site, and I suggest you do as well, is I set up a way to subscribe to my email newsletter. This was used regularly, not 15,000 times, but enough that it is growing my reach and thus our ability to grow our sport.
Upcoming Clinics and Talks
Jeff Salvage Free Talks
Join Jeff Salvage for his free talks about his Great Treks project as well as an introduction to race walking technique.
September 15th 2012, REI Yonkers, NY - 2:00 - 3:30 (Great Treks), 4:00 - 5:30 (Introduction to Race Walking)
October 27th, 2012, REI, Carl Place, NY - 2:00 - 3:30 (Great Treks), 3:30 - 5:00 (Introduction to Race Walking), email Jeff Salvage about details.
That’s it for now. I am looking forward to the World Championships in Moscow and I plan to attend and provide my usual photo stories.