The Judging Of Race Walking

By Jennifer Bessel

Join the Newsletter
This page is excerpted and summarized from Fast Walking, written by Ron Laird, and published by Stackpole Books. Laird wrote the text and also did the drawings. Laird, of course, is a four-time Olympian and a 65-time U.S. national champion at various race walk distances.

(from: TRACK COACH-153-FALL 2000)

     The purpose of having race walk judges is to insure the fairness of the competition for all walkers. There are two things the judges of race walking look for: apparent foot contact with the ground, and straight-leg action.

    The advancing foot must look like it has contacted the ground before the toes of the rear foot have left the ground. It is during this spread- out, heel-and-toe position that race walkers break or maintain contact with the ground. When there is loss of contact, the walker illegally gains a few inches through the air with each step.

Gymboss Timers


    All judging decisions are made as seen by the unaided (glasses are fine) eye. No camera or video equipment may be used for judging during or after a race. Even through the human eye is not 100 percent perfect to judge a race walker's contact with the ground, this is the method the sport has decided to use over the years. It has proven to be the most fair and accurate way to control the event.

    Bent-knee(s) race walking promotes the use of large quadriceps muscles to help thrust the walker forward and can also cause loss of contact. You want to land with a straight leg, leaving the quadriceps relaxed, and pull the ground back, underneath, and behind you with your hamstring and hip muscles. A strong heel pull as soon as the heel touches should also help to straighten the knee joint. Bent-leg quadriceps pushing and leaping up and over the ground is what runners do. Race walkers want to quickly and smoothly pull them- selves forward with their large ham-string muscles.

     When a race walking judge sees a competitor in danger of breaking one or both race walking rules, he/ she calls out the violation to the walker and at the same time shows him a white and black sign. On one side of this sign is the symbol for loss of contact ( ); on the other side is the symbol for bent knee(s)(). These "in danger of' calls are known as cautions. Cautions never add up to anything that would disqualify a walker from a race.

     If a race walker is obviously losing contact with the ground and/or landing with bent knee(s), the judge will write a disqualification (warning) card on the walker without telling the walker about it. It takes a warning call from three different judges to disqualify a competitor . Only the head judge is allowed to disqualify a walker and he or she does it verbally and with a red sign. When in doubt, the judges are to give the benefit of the doubt to the walker . Race walking judges are only concerned with knee straightening and what looks like proper contact with the ground. Competitors need to put more mental and physical effort into maintaining correct technique during their fast workouts and races. This will keep them from getting into trouble with the judges.

return to "RACE WALKING" main page

Join Altis 360