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1956 Olympic Games 20 km Racewalk


The Athletics Program cover for 28 NovemberThe Athletics Program cover for 28 November 1956 - the day of the 20 km racewalk

The 20km start listThe start of the 20 km event

Towards the end - crossing the Swan St Bridge

The first walkers crossing the Morrell St bridge near the end of the 20 km event


THE judges who adjudicated in the 50 kilometres walking event also  officiated here, but they failed to show the same strictness as in the  longer race and the standard of walking was certainly far from that expected  in an Olympic contest. Twenty-one started in this new Olympic event, which  took place in very much cooler conditions than those experienced by the  longer distance walkers.
Oakley, of Canada, led going out of the stadium for the first of the 2,000  metres laps; but it was no surprise when he was disqualified. At five  kilometres, Dolezal, of Czechoslovakia, was a foot ahead of Coleman and  Vickers. of Great Britain, with the Swedish pair, Ljunggren and Hindmar, a  yard or so behind. At the half-distance, Dolezal and Ljunggren were the  leaders in 45 minutes -36 seconds, Mikenas, one second behind, having four  seconds in hand over Coleman and Vickers. Junk and Spirin, of the U.S.S.R.,  were then Iying ninth, 71 seconds slower than the leaders.
It was at this point that the Soviet challenge developed fully, and at 15  kilometres Mikenas had a 13 seconds' lead of Ljunggren, while Spirin had  reduced the leeway by coming up to third place. Dolezal tired and, having  gone back to fifth place, 20 yards behind Vickers, dropped out shortly  afterwards. Spirin, walking fast but far from stylishly, went to the front  just before the walkers reached the stadium and was followed m by Mikenas,  with Junk a close third to provide the U.S.S.R. with a clean sweep of the  medals.
Ljunggren made a courageous effort to ward off the mass Soviet challenge and  did magnificently, in view of his efforts in the longer race, to finish  fourth, and the best stylist of the leading men, Vickers, in his first  international race, performed splendidly to occupy fifth place, gaining  slightly on Ljunggren in the last five kilometres. The Australian Keane,  did well to split split the English trio, of whom Hardy was affected by a  caution which caused him to slow down considerably. Seventeen finished,  Dolezal, Lindner and Hindmar retiring. Oakley was the only man to be  disqualified, although leniency on the part of the judges explains the  absence of further enforced withdrawals.
The experiment, for such it must be regarded, of substituting a 20  kilometres road walk for the controversial 10 kilometres track walk proved a  success, for it duly attracted the entry from the shorter distance men and  was held without the disputes regarding the judging on the method of  progression which occurred in the track walks at Wembley in 1948 and  Helsinki in 1952.
I question whether there would have been quite the same absence of  after-race criticism had the Games been held in Europe, where walking is  much more popular and where the supporters are more enthusiastic, more  partisan and more vocal than it is in Australia. Unquestionably, however,  the lengthening of the distance of the sprint walk and its translation to  the road has saved the race from disappearing from the Olympic programme.

1 L. Spirin (U.S.5.R.) 1. 31. 27.4
2 A. Mikenas (U.S.S.R.) 1. 32. 03.0
3 B. Junk (U.S.S.R.) 1. 32. 12.0
4 J. Ljunggren (Sweden) 1. 32. 14.0
5 S. Vickers (G.B.) 1. 32. 34.2
6 D. Keane (Australia) 1 .33. 52.0