How Olympic Speed Walking Works — And What to Know for 2021 Races

How Olympic Speed Walking Works — And What to Know for 2021 Races originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

While track athletes are sprinting for gold at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, other competitors will be walking to the finish line.

Among the 48 track and field events, there are three race walks included in the Olympic program: men’s 20km, women’s 20km and men’s 50km. The 50km is the longest track and field event at the Olympics, and the Tokyo Games could mark the last time it’s raced in its current iteration. It was dropped from the Olympic program for the 2024 Paris Games and will be replaced by a mixed gender event that is still to be determined.

What are the rules for race walking?

There are a few major differences between running and race walking beyond the speed. In race walking, one foot must always be in contact with the ground. A violation of this rule is called “lifting.” In addition, rules state that an athlete’s advancing leg must remain straight from the point of contact with the ground until the athlete’s passes over it.

Judges observe the race and caution competitors if it appears a competitor is breaking the above rules. Three violations during a race leads to disqualification.

Who will be competing in Olympic race walking for Team USA?

Team USA will have two competitors in the sport in Tokyo, and they bring new meaning to the term “power couple.”

Robyn Stevens and her boyfriend, Nick Christie, will race in their respective 20km races. Both won their races at the U.S. Olympic Trials, but neither are expected to medal in Tokyo. Larry Young is the only American to ever medal in any Olympic race walk, winning bronze in the men’s 50km walk in 1968 and 1972.

When does walk racing take place at the Tokyo Olympics?

The race walks and marathons for the 2020 Olympics will be held in Sapporo, over 500 miles north of Tokyo, due to heat concerns.

The men’s 20km race walk is at 3:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, the men’s 50km race walk is at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday and the women’s 20km race walk is at 3:30 ET on Friday.

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