Valeriy Borchin of Russia, the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist and 2011 world champion, was in the home stretch of the London Olympics 20K racewalk today when he passed out from exhaustion.
Borchin’s collapse at the 19K mark of the event was captured on the videos below. Chen Ding of China wound up winning the gold in the London 20K racewalk. Erick Barrondo, earning Guatemala’s first Olympic medal in any sport, won the silver.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Borchin, who obviously was unable to finish, was put on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to the hospital.
According to Deadspin, racewalking–which looks herky-jerky to the uninitiated–requires a tremendous amount of endurance and skill and is not a “walk in the park” by any means:
Racewalking… [is] s a real-deal, throw-down, God-honest Olympic sport. The athletes just as elite and devoted as in any other event…
It’s different from running because there are two limitations. You must keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. And your front, supporting leg must stay completely straight from the moment it touches the ground until your center of gravity passes over it. Failure to do so is called a “lifting infraction.” You do not want a lifting infraction….Only one American has ever won an Olympic racewalking medal: Larry Young scored bronzes in 1968 and 1972.
Deadspin adds that “Racewalking traces its roots back to a 19th century pastime called ‘Pedestrianism,’which was described as ‘competitive long distance walking events.’” Racewalking made its debut at the 1904 Olympics as part of the decathalon. In 1908, it became a standalone Olympic event. There are both 20K and 50K racewalks at the Olympics.