World Athletics Championships 1976 – 2013
The least said about Russia’s dominance the better. Of its 31 medals won, 6 are in the process of being annulled, but remain in the IAAF’s database, pending an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Another 9 have been won by athletes who subsequently failed doping tests, and a further 8 were given to walkers trained by the controversial, and now banned, coach Viktor Chegin. That leaves only 8 which are above suspicion.
Neither Italy nor Spain are entirely innocent either but both have a long race walking history. In Italy’s case, it goes back to Ugo Frigerio, a triple Olympic gold medallist in the 1920s. La Coruna in Spain has hosted a race walking event every year since 1987.
The most interesting aspect of the table is the success of countries from the highlands of Latin America, such as Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia, which otherwise do not have much of a tradition in track and field. Although Jefferson Perez (above) has won all of Ecuador’s medals, he is by no means the only Ecuadorian walker. And Guatemala could well be added to the list this year through the Olympic silver medallist Erick Barrondo.
The high altitude is perfect for training for endurance events, and Mexico dominated the big city marathons in the early nineties (how quickly we forget), but it seems that they are carving out a niche for themselves, rather than trying to compete with Kenya.
Equally remarkable is the record of Ireland, which has won a total of just six medals in the history of the World Athletics Championships. Half of them are in race walking.
Medals from the 1976 World Championship race walking event in Malmo are included.
Tomorrow: The countries which are able to jump further and higher than anybody else