Sustainability at the core of Oman’s first World Race Walking Team Championships

Oman Sunday 06/March/2022 21:11 PM
By: Gautam Viswanathan
Sustainability at the core of Oman’s first World Race Walking Team Championships

Sustainable practices were the mainstay of the first World Race Walking Team Championships being held in Oman.

As part of the event, which took place on 4 and 5 March, all athletes taking part were encouraged to take the UN Clean Seas pledge and reduce or eliminate single-use plastics in their daily lives.

“Oman Sail, World Athletics and OCEC are committed to ensuring the Race Walking Team Championships Muscat 22 are an environmentally friendly, educational and sustainable event,” said organisers of World Athletics in a statement.

“The local organising committee and World Athletics will also be working with the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), a beneficiary of the event, to jointly roll out environmental awareness training in local schools to contribute to the long-lasting legacy of the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships,” added the statement.

The championships began a day after World Wildlife Day and will be followed by Oman Sustainability Week from 13 to 17 March 2022. Both occasions will provide extra opportunities to promote the need to care of the environment and ways to be more sustainable.

The tournament saw many of the world’s best racewalkers take part in the event, which was held at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC).

“This competition has undergone some changes since it was last held in Taicang, China in May, 2018,” said Sebastian Coe, president, World Athletics, before the start of the event. “The most notable is that the men’s and women’s 50km walk has been replaced  by a 35km event, mirroring the change to the race walking programme for this  year’s World Athletics Championships,” which are to be held in Oregon later this year.

“The races, over 10km, 20km and 35km distances, will be held over a flat two-kilometre loop course centred around the splendid new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, which should offer ideal conditions for close racing,” he added.

As is the case with most sport, the race walking championships also proved to be a great leveller, providing opportunities to those from even the humblest of backgrounds to succeed: Ecuadorian Glenda Morejon’s mother sells fruit at a local market in the northern city of Ibarra, while her father dedicated himself to raising the three children in the family.

Morejon started out as a distance runner before her race-walking ability was identified at the age of 13, but her parents struggled to afford training gear. Coached by Giovanni Delgado at the Tarquino Jaramillo Athletics School, Morejon did most of her sessions on a dirt track. Often she wouldn’t wear shoes. The one pair of racing shoes she did have were patched up and in desperate need of repair.

In Muscat, Morejon won on her 35km race walking debut, as the 21-year-old both scooped the individual title, and led her country to a team victory – Ecuador’s first at the Race Walking Team Championships.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to train for this event, in fact we’ve been training for the 35km for only three weeks,” said Morejon, the 2017 world under-18 champion who finished second in the under-20 race at the 2018 edition of these championships. “Together with my coach and federation president, we decided to enter the 35km here and honestly, it’s crazy, I still cannot believe what has happened.

“I believe the most important thing is to believe in oneself,” she added. “Anything can happen and everyone can win. The power of the mind is really incredible.”

The championships feature three race categories: 10km, 20km, and 35km. China won both the men’s and women’s 10km race walk, with strong performances from Hongren Wang and Yunyan Jiang. Chinese race walker Zhenxia Ma also won the women’s 20km event.

Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi finished first in the men’s 20km race walk, while Sweden’s Perseus Kalstrom, himself the son of elite-level race walkers, won the 35km men’s edition.