Defense (Olympic) Update Nr. 4: Race Walking
About.com Track and Field describes race walking as follows:
Race walkers are the penguins of the Olympic Games – to the untrained eye, their movements just don’t look right. But race walkers – with their arms pumping, hips swiveling and legs barely restraining themselves from breaking into a trot – know what they’re doing. These long-distance striders are constantly pushing the envelope, moving as fast as they can while maintaining legal walking form.
The 50-kilometer (about 31 miles — five miles longer than the Olympic marathon) men’s race walking event has been in the Olympics since 1932 and the 20-kilometer men’s race walking since 1956.
The Army News Service describes the intricacies of race walking as follows:
In race walking, one foot must remain in contact with the ground at all times. The toes of the athlete’s back foot cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. The front leg must straighten when it touches the ground and remain straight until the body passes directly over it.
Athletes stay low to the ground by keeping their arms pumping close to their hips. They keep their strides short and quick and push off from the balls of their feet.
If you still have questions about this sport, John Nunn will teach Americans how to race walk tomorrow (Monday) morning on NBC’s “Today” show.
Who is John Nunn?
Army Staff Sgt. John Nunn is one of our military Olympians who will be competing for Gold in the 50k Olympic race walk in London on August 11, and the only American man competing in this event.
It will not be easy. Europeans have been dominating this sport. The only American who has won in this Olympic event, with two bronze medals, is Larry Young.
Army Staff Sgt. John Nunn. Nunn made his first appearance at the Olympic Games in 2004, and competed in the World Outdoor Championships in Helsinki in 2005, posting a seasonal best performance with his 30th place finish. Nunn first was exposed to race walking as a child by his family, and later received a scholarship for the sport from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. He enjoys woodworking in his spare time. Nunn resides in Chula Vista, Calif.
From the Army News Service, by Gary Sheftick:
Nunn, 34, has been race walking since he was a youngster. He is a 12-year veteran of the U.S Army World Class Athlete Program and has been training on and off with the program since 2000. He competed under WCAP at the 2004 Olympics, finishing 26th in the 20-kilometer race walk in Athens, Greece.
Nunn is a five-time U.S. National silver medalist in the 20k race walk, but has trained for less than eight months for the 50k race walk, a 31-mile across-terrain event he won at the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier this year and will compete in here Aug. 11.
Nunn said he wants to focus on the 50k in the future, adding that he’d like to stay with the Army and continue training after the London Games.
Nunn said the Army has helped him focus. From basic training onward, he added, the Army has taught him many things, including discipline and how to focus on benchmarks.
Nunn is a single parent, and his 8-year-old daughter, Ella, will join him in London, where the 50-kilometer race-walk course will cover city streets and pass by Buckingham Palace.
Nunn and his Olympic teammate, Maria Michta, spent yesterday afternoon teaching the program’s cast members the finer points of their event. After some instruction, NBC broadcasters Al Roker, Matt Lauer and Ryan Seacrest joined Nunn for a lap around the track.
Meanwhile, Michta coached Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales and Meredith Vieira and urged them to try to defeat the men in a race that will highlight the televised segment.
NBC producers said they selected race walking as the sport to showcase because it’s fun, interesting and unfamiliar to most Americans.
Race walking has more of a following in countries such as China and Russia, Nunn said. He and Michta said they hope the “Today” segment will help to make the sport more popular in America.
There will be some very stiff competiton for John Nunn in London. Whatever else people may call this interesting sport, it certainly will not be a cakewalk for our military Olympian. We wish Nunn every success.
Photo: U.S. Army