Click on the attached PDF file to read the report.
Athletics Canada has agreed to provide significant financial support to Canada’s elite race walkers for the 2013 season. This support will be made directly to the Racewalk West group. Racewalk West currently has 3 Senior Men qualified for the World Championships and for the FISU Games, both being held in Russia this year.
The full impact of this support will be seen as the season progresses. The funding will be used to provide access to preparation programms that would not otherwise have been available.
Artificial altitude simulation will be used in preparation for the Pan Am Race Walk Cup to help level the playing field with the Latin nations who live and train at altitude. All three of our athletes will participate in a multi week alritude camp in St. Moritz in preparation for Moscow.
We will now have massage/physio therapy available to the athletes at all events and not just at the major team events. The group will also have access to professional biomechanics and gait analysis as both a prevention and a developmental strategy.
The timing for this support could not have been better. The athletes and the Racewalk West coaching staff have progressed to the point where the skills are there to take advantage of the resources being offered.
Thank you to Athletics Canada and the AC staff who have seen our ability to realise our potential and have decided to play an active role in our development. We will deliver on our part of the bargain.
On March 17, Evan Dunfee and Ben Thorne brought Canada to the World level in men’s racewalk. Their 20km times of 1:22:46 and 1:22:49 put both of them into the Top 40 in the world. This is something that has not been done in Canada in over a decade. Combine this with the February performance of their teammate, Inaki Gomez, and you have a team of a quality that has never been seen before in Canada.
Opening an ever widening lead within the first 100 meters of the race, with Thorne a few meters back, Evan paced himself masterfully. The pacing and patience that Evan showed in his debut 50km event in the fall showed itself once again in Huntington Beach, CA. By 15km Evan had steadily been able to increase the pace to the point where a personal best and World Championships “B” standard was inevitable. In the final 5km of the race Ben closed on Evan to briefly take the lead until Evan responded with a big push in the final 2km to lead Ben to the finish line with a 3 second gap. In the process the two Racewalk West athletes lapped the field on the 1.052km course with the exception of the third place finisher, Patrick Stroupe.
The next challenge for Evan, Ben and Inaki, Canada’s best racewalking trio ever, will be the Pan Am Racewalk Cup which will be held in Guatemala on May 25. The trio, with the addition of teammate Creighton Connolley, are looking for personal and team podium finishes in the premiere event in the Western Hemisphere this season. They will then attempt to repeat the performance, representing Canada at the FISU Games in July in Kazan, Russia before heading for the World Championships in Moscow in August. Gomez has the “A” standard and Thorne the “B” for the 20km event and Dunfee has the “B” standard for the 50km event.
Now that the three are becoming familiar with view from the podium at World level events podium finishes at the World Championships and the Olympics are not many events away.
In the first of the IAAF Race Walk Challenge races of 2013, Canadian Inaki Gomez posted a 2nd place finish in the Men’s 20km event. The race was held in Chihuahua, MX on Saturday February 23rd. Inaki’s last race was his Canadian records setting 13th place finish at the Olympics. Given the training conditions in Calgary over the winter and the race conditions in Chihuahua it looks like Gomez is picking up right where he left off in 2012.
“As an early season test we found out what we wanted from this race.”, said Gomez. “We know exactly what we need to do going into the Pan Am Race Walk Cup in Lima, Peru in May. I’ll get to the podium again, this time on the top step. I should have some Canadian company as well with my training partners Evan Dunfee and Ben Thorne walking well. We had a week of training together in Phoenix prior to this event with our coach and that really gave us a boost.”
Inaki now heads back to school at the University of Calgary where he is in first year Law. Once exams are over in mid-April Inaki will return to Vancouver to train with the rest of the Racewalk West group.
Racewalk West is poised to rise to the top in Race Walk in the Western Hemisphere. The Canadian Senior men’s team will be aiming for the top 3 at the Pan Am Race Walk Cup in May. Given the youth of the team the Canadians are a good bet to be on the podium in Toronto at the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Prior to arriving in London for the Olympics we were told repeatedly that the Olympics were different. How different could they be? It’s still a race walk. The rules don’t change. The course is a loop. We’ve seen all of the competitors before at other international meets, we’ve even seen most of the judges. What could be different about that? Well, after having been though our first one I can honestly say, just about everything.
We started to see the differences days before the event. the course walk-through was actually not a walk-through at all. For the most part it was a walk-beside. For half of the course nobody could walk on it, only beside it. For the other half of the course those without full accreditation could not even see it except for at a great distance.
The course was guarded by military personnel 24 hours per day. It was so unique that I would have taken a photo except that I was told by the folks in uniform that both myself and my camera would be confiscated. It was interesting to talk to the lads though. Seeing that we were from Canada they nearly all could tell us about their stay in Canada at the UK exchange base in Alberta.
The way that the course was set up half of the route was accessible and half was enclosed in a secure area that only ticketed or accredited folks could enter. The secure area contained all of the features that we need access to during the race except for the personal drinks station. We found out about this 10 days before the event. We informed Athletics Canada staff that at least one of us would need a pass to be able to do our job. Lots of promises and much discussion later, come race day we had no pass and no access. Luckily, Carmen Alvarez, Inaki’s long-standing (and long-suffering) partner came to the rescue. Through contacts that she had she rustled up a “magic” pass that not only allowed me to get in but allowed me to go almost anywhere I wanted. Thank you Carmen!
I suppose that the prelude to any event that takes place in front of Buckingham Palace would not be complete without a visit from the Queens Guard and the boys in the band. We were treated to, among other classics, a rousing rendition of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, which was both pleasant and fitting to the situation although odd to be coming from this band.
Using my magic pass I found a great spot just beyond the Finish line. I was joined at my little perch in front of the main stands by the Gomez-Goroztieta clan and friends. What at first seemed like a questionable idea form an athlete/coach perspective, having all of that distraction in our faces, turned out to be a game saver. We were in the only area on the entire course that was accessible to “persons needing assistance”. That’s where the abuela (Spanish for grandmother) comes into the picture. Inaki’s grandmother is a “person needing assistance” and also, I found of later, a “person of great resistance”. The event staff did not want us cluttering up media sight lines and came down to move us along. Even though she has little English, the abuela cottoned to the situation and sat stony faced and silent and refused to move. The event staff, being true Brits with full respect for elders, were stymied. As a compromise they gave us boundaries that we could not go outside and every once in a while came by to see if we hadn’t considered moving along. The event staff quickly and effectively removed all others who dared venture into the sacred space until, later during the race, the Irish moved in. They event staff didn’t even bother coming by to talk to them, there was no way that they were going to mess with the Irish as, by now, they know that it always turns out badly.
OK, so with all that going on the race got underway. Finally, we came to a point in the race where things again became familiar. Because of the slow start the pack was very dense and everyone inside the pack had little to no room to move. This went on for a full two laps of the race until the boys at the front decided that the race was on and the pace picked up spreading out the field. The rest of the race unfolded as we expected with Inaki picking up with a pack that was travelling at his pace. At about 13km the pack started to slow down and at 16km I gave Inaki the signal to break away and get moving, that Canadian record was not going to wait for him. He was immediately able to respond and pulled away with only one other member of the pack going with him. That little boost made the difference and he crossed the line with a brand new Canadian record for his Olympic debut.
This amazing feat could not have happened without the assistance of many people who worked selflessly behind the scenes, we’d like to thank:
London, UK – Vancouver, B.C.’s Inaki Gomez finished 13th in the men’s 20-kilometre race walk final in a new Canadian record time of 1:20:58. Gomez continually worked his way back from the 28th position at the 8-kilometre split. By the 10-kilometre marker he was up to 18th, at the 12km split he had moved up to 16th, at the 18km split made it up to 14th and eventually finished 13th.
Yesterday we viewed the Race Walk course. The LOC has made a few last minute changes that will make everyone’s experience better. Tomorrow will tell the real tale. For today we spent out time in the Olympic Athlete Village.
Today was a very restful day. Light preparation, watching the first day of Athletics, eating, hydrating and taking care of last minute details. Here’s a quick tour for you.
After going through several layers of very pleasant but very officious security and a short walk you come upon the Canadian residence building. The village is very closely modelled after the Vancouver Olympic Village. All of the housing is destined to become private condos once the Olympics are finished. Let’s hope that they have better luck with the sales than we did.
At the entrance to the Canadian residence is the Canadian mascot. Not sure where it came from and we’re about the only country with one. It has become a favourite and classic “photo op” and I could not resist making Inaki pose for the obligatory shot. Against his better judgement, he complied so it would do him a disservice not to post this:
As payback and also to get the other key “photo op” into this post Inaki made me do the “rings”, in fairness to him, here it is:
So, to complete the quick tour photo essay, here’s a look at the Athlete’s Plaza:
Tomorrow we finally get to do what we do what we’ve come here to do , details to follow.
We made the move from St, Moritz Switzerland to Kamen, Germany via Europe’s superb train system. Inaki made a short side trip to London to get his credentials and to familiarise with the Olympic Village. We made a short side trip to Berlin to spend a day cycling around this wonderful city. The following day we met up at the Sportcentrum in Kamen.
The life of a high performance ahtlete is not all hard work and our stay in Kamen proved that quite graphically. Every need was taken care of. The only hardship, if it can be called that, was slow and intermittent internet connections. Kamen is a small rural town about an hour away by train from Dussledorf. We had great food, very comfortable accommodations, lots of care from the medical and therapy staff, great training facilities and interesting places in the countryside to work out.
There was some hard work done by Inaki at the training camp but it was focused and concentrated on high quality preparation for his race on August 4th. We had a relatively poor workout in one of two attempts to test race fitness. The day was quite humid and Inaki was still feeling the effects of adjusting to the lower altitude. Rather than stress over this setback we regrouped, rearranged our schedule and put in another competition readiness workout in two days time.
Rather than use the track on site as we did last time, this time we went out into the countryside and measured out a course on some paved bike trials that ran through rye and corn fields. This time everything was right. Inaki worked hard to go slow enough to stay within race pace. Each repetition was better than the last. Inaki did this in spite of several unplanned events.
When we had measured the route the day before there was no one else around and there was nothing else aside from the rye and corn waving in the breeze. The day of the workout was different. First, there was poop all over the road, the farmers were fertilising prior to harrowing their fallow fields. Then the farmer needed to drive his tractor and poop wagon on the paved path forcing a showdown between Ianki and the tractor (Inaki won). Then it was dog walking time and most of the local dog/owner pairs came out to walk on the bike path. None of this made us miss a beat until a massive thunder storm moved in and started its deluge with less than 500m left in the workout.
With near gale force winds blowing in our faces and rain coming down so hard that it was filling up the roads, we made our way back to the Sportcentrum very happy and fully satisfied that we were ready for a fine performance in London. It was now time for the final phase in our preparation.
While both Ben Thorne and Evan Dunfee were busy with their International competitions Inaki Gomez was actively pursuing his next phase of preparation for the Olympics in London. Based on his earlier success with performing after training at altitude we decided that another altitude session would be the right type of preparation for the Olympic race. Another factor in Inaki’s performance success was in working closely with the Australian walks team. When we found that the Australian’s were inviting Inaki to train with them again at their altitude camp in St. Moritz we jumped at the chance.
The sessions in St. Moritz started slowly with performance being challenging in the mile high atmosphere. Over the three week period that Inaki was working at altitude this changed into Inaki being able to meet or exceed prior performance levels. He was getting faster for longer periods, just what we were looking for.
Blair Miller and I joined Inaki for his final week in St. Moritz in part to observe his progress and in part to enjoy the place. St. Mortiz in the summer is far more accessible for the non-filthy rich than it is in the winter. After several days of invigorating and steadily improving workouts we were ready for the next phase in our preparation, the Athletics Canada training camp at the Sportcentrum in Kamen, Germany.
As a member of the Canadian World Junior Athletics Team, Ben Thorne participated in his second major world Championship of the year. After his performance at the World Cup of Race Walking in Saransk, Russia qualified him for the World Junior event Ben went on to post a world best time at the Canadian Championships. Ben had the podium in site at the World Juniors.
The race started well for Ben who was determined to lead the field to a fast time rather than have the 10,000 metre event on the track become a cat-and-mouse game with a sprint finish in the last 600 metres. Ben was able to lead for a large part of the first 5,000 metres of the race, however in order to do this Ben needed to put in several sprint efforts to keep ahead of a very determined Japanese walker. The abrupt changes of pace were Ben’s undoing as he picked up several calls from judges who determined that in order to pick up that much speed over such a short distance Ben was violating the contact rule. Just after the 5,000 metre mark Ben was disqualified and was forced to retire from the race.
Being disqualified at a major event is devastating. However, much to his credit Ben has recovered his desire to compete and will be one of the featured athletes at the US/Canada Junior Dual Race Walk event being held in Toronto in the middle of August. It’s certain that we can expect another amazing performance from the young man.