Okay, race-walking events aren’t the most glamorous Olympic competitions, but they’re hardly a stroll in the park, either. Winners in the 20-kilometer walk will average better than nine miles per hour for 12.5 miles. And the lack of running doesn’t prevent a close, exciting finish.
1. 1996 - Ecuador takes first goldEcuador had never won an Olympic medal prior to 1996 and Jefferson Perez didn’t seem a likely medalist, let alone a winner, in the 20-kilometer race walk, having finished just 33rd in the 1995 World Championships. In Atlanta, Perez and Mexico’s Miguel Rodriguez trailed Russians Ilya Markov and Rishat Shafikov with two kilometers remaining. Then Rodriguez was disqualified and Shafikov faded, leaving Perez in second. Perez strode by Markov in the final kilometer to win by a solid nine seconds in 1:20:07.
2. 2000 - Korzeniowski takes twoThe only man to win both race walk events, Poland’s Robert Korzeniowski accomplished the feat in Sydney even though he didn’t cross the finish line first in the 20 kilometer event. Korzeniowski entered the stadium stride-for-stride with Mexicans Bernardo Segura and Noe Hernandez in the 20K. Segura moved ahead in the final 100 meters and edged Korzeniowski by two seconds, with Hernandez four seconds behind the Pole. However, Segura had accumulated three red cards for lifting, causing his disqualification. The fact was communicated to the event’s chief judge shortly after Segura crossed the finish line and Korzeniowski was proclaimed the winner. The defending gold medalist in the longer race, Korzeniowski easily won the 50K, in 3:42:22.