The 50 km walk will disappear



The walker Yohann Diniz will engage this Thursday around 10 p.m. (French time) on the Sapporo circuit, in the Japanese mountains for the last competition of his life (1). At 43, the 2017 world champion will participate without pressure in his fourth Olympic Games, four years after his failure in the 50 km of which he was favorite. “I have nothing more to lose or to prove, I am happy to participate, these are my last Games, it would be a shame not to have fun, and we will see the result”, declares the future retiree.

He prepared for weeks in Portugal to face the main enemies of all the walkers or marathoners involved in these Games: the heat and the humidity. “I trained for seventy days in a thermal chamber, but I think everyone else has done it, everyone knows it’s their last chance to win a medal, we don’t know at all what will happen . There is a lot of randomness in this discipline, it will take luck, maybe for once it will smile on me, or not ”, declares the champion, both relaxed and… angry.

Threatening for years, the ax fell in December 2020 on the 50 km walk, which will live in Sapporo its last steps. The IOC has announced the discontinuation of the specialty, one of the few in Olympism with only one men’s event, unlike the 20 km which has its female version. Included in the program of the world championships since 2017, the women’s 50 km did not make many emulators and it suffered in 2019 from the catastrophic image of the Doha Worlds.

“We did not give the girls time to develop in this sport and we cut the rug from under the feet of those who had started it, I find that the argument of diversity does not hold”, supports the champion. However, it is this aspect that is highlighted by the IOC. “The objective is to achieve parity for the first time in the history of Olympic athletics, but without exceeding the overall quota of athletes”, Kit McConnell, IOC Sports Director, said in the December announcement.

Without the format being specified yet, it is likely that Paris 2024 will maintain the two 20 km events, one for men and the other for women. But will inaugurate a long distance (we are talking about 35 km) with a requirement of diversity, perhaps in the form of a mixed relay as in cross-country skiing. Obliged to further reduce the number of athletes in order to limit costs – and this, despite the increase in the number of sports and the creation of mixed events in many disciplines – the IOC made a decision.

Deemed too long (around 3:30 a.m.) by televisions and sending back an unfavorable image for the athletes with this famous sway, the 50 km bore the brunt of the operation. In addition, live failures, with men staggering on the asphalt before collapsing, are devastating for a discipline considered inhuman and which suffers from a sulphurous reputation.

In fact, it is one of the most involved in doping scandals in recent years. Quite a few Russian marchers have been caught up in the affairs leading to Russia’s suspension, including 2012 Olympic 50km champion Sergey Kirdyapkin. As for the Italian Alex Schwazer, Olympic champion in Beijing in 2008, he was then suspended for eight years for doping. After serving his sentence, he hoped to try his luck again in Tokyo, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the supreme body of sports justice, objected.

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