03/08/2021   Friday morning in Sapporo the 50km men of the Olympic Games




When it was announced last month that world champion Yusuke Suzuki stepped down from Japan’s Olympic team, it threw the men’s 50km race walk wide open.

The 20km world record-holder stepped up in distance two years ago and dominated the 50km event in Doha, becoming the first Japanese athlete to win a global race-walking title. But, citing a lack of form, Suzuki announced in June that he won’t compete in Sapporo.

But if Japan's recent results are anything to go by, the host nation's team will be the big medal favorite for the 50km.
Masatora Kawano set a blistering pace at Takahata at the end of 2019, passing through half way at a pace of less than 3:35. The pace dropped only slightly in the second half and he went on to win in 3:36:45, beating Suzuki's national record and reserving his place on the Japanese Olympic team.
Satoshi Maruo finished second in that race in 3:37:39, but had to prove his form at the National Championships in 2021 to secure his spot on the team. He duly won in 3:38:42, finishing nearly four minutes ahead of the rest of the field. The 29-year-old finished just off the medals at the 2017 World Championships, so he will be highly motivated to take the podium in Sapporo.
Hayato Katsuki, who finished second behind Maruo at the National Championships in a PB of 3:42:34, was drafted into the Japanese team as Suzuki's replacement.
Outside of Japan, whose athletes are top favorites for us, one athlete who knows how to perform in difficult conditions is Evan Dunfee. The Canadian prepared meticulously well for the Doha World Championships and, with an impressive post-race drive, was awarded the bronze medal.
He has been in great shape so far this year, setting Canadian records of 5000m and 10,000m with world records of 18: 39.08 and 38: 39.72 respectively.
The Chinese trio should also be competitive. Luo Yadong, with an excellent 3:41:15, finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships and won the Chinese 50km title earlier this year. Asian Games silver medalist Wang Qin, who has a PB of 3:38:02, is the Chinese team's fastest walker, but he didn't make it to Doha and in Chinese selection ended in suffering in 3:47:35.
Andres Chocho who has collected eight positive results in 12 important 50km championships could also be in contention for a good position in the top eight.
A special mention for the 1993 world champion, Jesus Angel Garcia (ESP) who will compete in his eighth Olympics, a record attendance in athletics.
Garcia, aged 51, who has competed in every Olympics since 1992, is still competitive, as evidenced by his eighth place at the 2019 World Championships.
Spain's best hopes could be pinned on Marc Tur, who won the European Team Championships in Podebrady in 3:47:40.
(photo thanks to Frederic Bianchi - SUI)