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WHAT IS RACE WALKING? A SLIGHT FLIGHT PHASE

Even when it comes to the supposed best judges in the world, the IAAF judges, the issue is very murky at best. I was at a coaches conference in Europe with many other elite coaches.  I took the IAAF video test and did amongst the best of the coaches in the room. However, I was astonished at the criteria for what was considered a correct answer. They made it a popularity contest instead of trying to quantify how long of a flight phase at a given speed might constitute loss of contact by the definition of race walking.

Given that there are physical limits to what the human eye can pick up, then it should be quantifiable as to how much time off the ground constitutes loss of contact. Judges should then be tested using that criteria and we could then have a more consistent interpretation. 

This revelation might be horrifying, but watch an NFL football game and see how many holds along the line aren't called. How many picks in an NBA basketball game go unnoticed? It's all part of playing the game.

If you want a number, I feel if you are off the ground for under 1/30th of a second, it cannot be picked up by the human eye. If you are off the ground for more than 1/30th of a second you should get a proposal for disqualification for loss of contact. With today's cameras you can record at speeds of 300 fps. So it is as easy as counting how many frames someone is off the ground to determine a rough guess as to the amount of time they have both feet off the ground.

The following are images of walkers with a slight flight phase and in our opinion legally race walking and therefore should not receive a proposal for disqualification.

Slight Flight Phase - Race Walking Slight FLight Phase - Race Walking

Even when we look at them close up, they are only off the ground a little bit.

Slight Flight Phase - Race Walking Slight FLight Phase - Race Walking

This slight phase is what we are really shooting for. The first image is of Susan Armenta when she was training at the Olympic Training Center and she is a hair off the ground. We weren't aiming to capture this. I just happened to take the photo at the time and when I was putting the slides together this I found it.

In contrast Robert Korzinowski is a bit more off the ground. But he walks very smoothly and did not receive calls and I don't think you will pick this up with the human eye. You'll see much worse shortly. Let's say he's off the ground by millameters off the ground a 4-5 cm in the back. When you start talking about inches, and believe me we have photographs of people more than 4-5 inches off the ground, that's when it starts to get visible.

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