EMPEROR AURELIAN — called “Restorer of the World” — led the Roman Empire and its grand vision of world domination for a brief time in the third century A.D.
Racewalker Aurelien Quinion had similar visions of territorial restoration — after all, his nation, France, had claimed walk gold just once in the 40-year history of the World Championships.
Well, the 30-year-old Parisian pedestrian staked his imperial intentions early by bursting away from the big lead pack of the 35K race just past the 14th K (58:14) and holding on to that advantage past the 29th K (2:00:30) before his visions of golden grandeur evaporated in the rising temps and humidity.
With the pressure now on him, his technique did not hold up. Two red cards had come in previously and then the third, he was assessed the mandatory 3:30 penalty and, once back on the street, soon picked up his fourth and all his visions were at an end.
But they were just beginning for Spain’s Álvaro Martín. Five days earlier, he had claimed 20K gold at this same site, but no male walker at the 18 previous Worlds had ever struck double short/long race gold. History was to be made this day.
As Quinion wilted, Martín and three leading challengers surged.
Ecuador’s Brian Pintado, Japan’s Masatora Kawano and Canada’s Evan Dunfee were ready for their own bursts, but they all fell short.
Pintado floored it from 29 to 33K — posting laps of 4:03, 3:55, 3:57, 4:00, 4:33 — to lead narrowly. Kawano and Dunfee hung close — but they still couldn’t match Martín’s closing power. By 34K his 3:52 lap proved decisive and he spurted home, draped in a Spanish flag, with a 4-flat final circuit, completing the job in 2:24:30.
Pintado had plenty left, closing in 3:55 for a 2:24:34 silver and a South American Record, with Kawano taking bronze at 2:25:12, but there was no catching Martín.
Racewalking’s rules, of course, require “contact with the ground,” but Martín, gold medal now around his neck, told the media crowd, “Right now I am flying.”
“Now I am sky-high and only want to enjoy these amazing days.”
The 20K racewalk will remain but there will be no 35K on the slate for Paris24 – supplanted by the experimental mixed man/woman marathon distance (42.195K) team relay.
Martín remains undaunted, though, by all this tinkering with the Games schedule and now…