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Physiological and Psychological Determinants of Racewalking Success: You may already be coaching a potential Olympian. Dave McGovern, MSS. A Brief History of Racewalking. The 19th-Century: The Golden Era of Walking in the US
Dave McGovern, MSS
Pedestrian races were hugely popular in the US and Great Britain throughout the 19th Century.
Ultra races from 12 hours to six days were among the most popular spectator sports during the Victorian era.
Due to it’s popularity at the time, racewalking became one of the first events on the Olympic program.
The 1904 Olympic decathlon included a half-mile walk. 1,500-meter and 3,500-meter races were contested in 1906 and distances were gradually increased to the present-day 20k and 50k events.
Walking remained reasonably popular popular in North America through the 1950s, but we’ve been on a steady decline ever since.
Lack of developmental opportunities (No walks in Division I track.)
Barcelona Olympic Silver Medallist Carlos Mercenario with with Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone at the Acapulco Planet Hollywood opening.
Yet there is little correlation between running success and walking success
Athletes who may not have the inherent athletic talent to be elite distance runners but who have the work ethic required to be elite athletes may be taught to be exceptional racewalkers.
Racewalking is an endurance event, but also a technique-specific skill for which not everyone has an aptitude. It takes consistent training over time (10 years+?) to develop a top racewalker. But our chain has too many broken links to keep walkers around long enough to reach the top.
There are many strong youth programs across the US that support the walks, yet only Maine and parts of New York State have racewalking in their track programs. And beyond high school, only the NAIA and a few small division II conferences conduct racewalks.
The few programs that do support racewalking have had a huge impact. One school, UW-Parkside has produced dozens of National Champions and four Olympians.
Without opportunities for consistent training over time, USA Racewalking has suffered.
Chula Vista from 1997-2004: medals at international competition (3)
Without Assistance 2005-Present: medals at international competition(0)
Chula Vista from 1997-2004: number of athletes with A & B standards (5)
Without Assistance 2005-Present: number of athletes with A & B standards (2)
Chula Vista from 1997-2004: number of spots filled at the Olympics (9)
Without Assistance 2005-Present: number of spots filled at the Olympics (2)
Chula Vista from 1997-2004: American Records (20)
Without Assistance 2005-Present: American Records (2)
Chula Vista from 1997-2004: First time Olympians (5)
Without Assistance 2005-Present: First time Olympians (0)