I put this web page together in July 2017 when in London for the
IAAF World Championships. It remains relevant today, considering that
the retention the 50km racewalk is still not assured.
When walking around inner London this week, it has been impossible
to miss the many adverstiements and memorabilia honouring the long
battle by Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes and celebrating the
1918 granting of the vote to women.
In the 99 years since that famous victory for women, women have continued to fight to improve their rights, always against strong opposition from establishment forces.
Sport has been one of the key areas in which women have had to fight for their place in the sun.
Consider the road to the women's Olympic marathon
A process of nearly 20 years!
Women’s walking has had to similarly fight for recognition, starting
with a Lugano Cup 5km championship in the 1970s, progressing to the
Eschborn Cup10km and then the IAAF World Championship 10km in the 1980s
and finally getting its Olympc representation in 1992 as a 10km
roadwalk. In the 2000 Olympics, the women's championship distance was
changed to 20km and remains at that distance now.
But the contrast with their male counterparts remains. Men have two Olympic walks (20km and 50km) while women have only one (20km).
Shuqing YANG (CHN) 4:27:24
Hang YIN (CHN) 4:22:22
InÍs HENRIQUES (POR) 4:08:26
Kathleen BURNETT (USA) 4:26:37
Erin TALCOTT (USA) 4:29:33
Nair DA ROSA (BRA) 4:39:28
Susan RANDALL (USA) 4:54:12
There are a number of serious issues with regard to the 2017 Women's 50m World Championship
The IAAF has only added this event at the
last minute (23rd July 2017), after significant pressure. Thus the entry list is small.
If it had been announced in a timely fashion in 2016, many more women
would have challenged themselves and put qualifying times on the board.
The women’s 50km qualifying standard of 4:30 is 9.76% above the men’s 50km standard of 4:06:00.
The womens’ marathon qualification standard of 2:45:00 is 18.7% above the men’s standard of 2:14:00
The women’s 10,000m qualification standard of 32:15 is 16.1% above the men’s standard of 27:45.
Is this fair?
The IAAF has mandated that all women must reach the 48km mark by 4:17:00. Based on
average speed, this equates to a 50km finishing time of 4:27:43 (ie
nearly 1% faster than the qualifying standard of 4:30:00). In no other
event is there a finish cutoff faster than the qualifying standard.
Consider the men’s marathon just contested in London, where the qualifying standard was 2:19:00. A corresponding cutoff would be 2:17:49. Of the 71 finishers (27 DNF’d), only 29 would've been allowed to finish! Imagine if the clock was stopped and a barrier put across the finishing line at 2:17:49. Oh, the media field day that would have ensued!
Remember this if you see any women being flagged off the course at the 4:17:00 time. It is a blatant case of gender discrimination.
The 2017 World Championship 50km for women is the first step in the
right direction. The next few years must see further opportunities for
women to challenge themselves over the 50km standard.
The IAAF must now announce a Women's 50km Racewalk to be included in
this meet, with up to 5 competitors per Member Federtation. Like the men, no
qualifying standard should be set. It should be left to
Member Federations to set their own standards and propose on their own
women's 50km teams.
The IAAF must build on the small start made this year in London, set a sensible qualifying standard and allow up to 3 women per Member Federation to compete in these championships.Only then will gender discrimination in this event be removed. Further, the IAAF entry standard should be set at 4:52:00 (18.7% above the men's 50km standard).
This remains the ultimate goal for women long distance walkers. Only
with support from the IAAF will this wish be transformed into reality.
It does not necessarily mean an additional event to be added to the
Olympic program. A joint race is possible,with man and women competing
other in a single 50km race, as is the case in 2017. In these days of
electronic timing, field sizes are not of significance.