Athletics

Good News For Irish Athletes As 50km Walk Gets Reprieve

Good News For Irish Athletes As 50km Walk Gets Reprieve

The 50km race walk was under the guillotine this week. Thankfully, considering walking's importance to Irish athletics over the last 15 years, it received a stay of execution from the IAAF.

The IAAF met in London with the possibility on the cards that the 50km walk could be removed from the athletics programme for major events. The IOC were reportedly behind the proposal. The event would have been gone from the 2019 World Championships and the next Olympic Games.

Considering that athletes have already begun their training cycle for the Tokyo Games, sense prevailed.

Council discussed the Tokyo 2020 Games programme and agreed not to propose the removal of any disciplines from the current programme given athletes are a year into their training for the 2020 Games.

The IAAF will continue to evolve the sport of athletics so it retains its position as the No.1 sport on the Olympic programme. To this effect there are discussions, initiatives, ideas and proposals that are being developed and consulted on. Any agreed initiatives will be introduced into the next Olympic cycle (2024 Olympic Games) after they have been widely consulted on within the sport over the coming months and years.

Last week, Donegal athlete Brendan Boyce - who finished 19th in the 50k in Rio - said that if the event was deleted from the major championships, it would likely mean him retiring from athletics.

Considering the upward trajectory of his career and that he is now entering his peak years as a race walker, that certainly would have been a shame.

On his Facebook page, Boyce said it was a signal that all athletes must be prepared to fight for their events.

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This is a great warning to athletics and we must be ready to fight for our events.

The opposition which came from the race walking community certainly played a major part in the retention of the 50k. A petition was sent to IAAF president Seb Coe.

Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who finished fourth in Rio, hailed the importance of Paul DeMeester, an amateur race walker and criminal defence lawyer who spoke on behalf of walking community at the IAAF council meeting.

Dunfee told CBS Sports:

I am very relieved.

It is hard to say what, if any, our role as athletes speaking up made in this decision but I am so proud of the larger community for organising so quickly and speaking with one unified voice.

I think that lends credit to how amazing this community of athletes is.

We had a masters athlete, Paul de Meester, fly on his own accord to London, booked into the same hotel the IAAF were meeting in and delivered his impassioned plea for the saving of his event.

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

PJ Browne
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