Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Is Racewalking a Sport?

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This has nothing to do with physics, but - Racewalking. Here are the rules: Walk so that one foot

is always on the ground and keep your front leg straight.

In short, do a funny walk, really fast. There's also something funny about the rules, though

- the judges who determine whether or not a competitor is indeed "walking", are only

allowed to stand stationary at the side of the course and judge by EYE whether the competitors

APPEAR to be walking. You'd think that for a sport whose definition is so technical,

they'd appeal to all possible technology to enforce the rules.

So is race walking stuck in the dark ages? I mean, there are other sports that don't

allow referees to view replays, but when you think about the electronics of fencing, the

finish-line cameras of track and field, the touchpads of swimming, and the 3D ball tracking

and path-reconstruction of tennisrace walking judges, on the other hand, seem quite

pedestrian. They're even forbidden to watch from ground level or use such modern technology

as binoculars or a mirror.

So what's up with all this perambulatory red tape?

If you look carefully at slowmo footage or basically any photograph of racewalkers themselves,

you'll realize that pretty much everyone leaves the groundNot just occasionally because

of a push or stumble, which is allowed - but on almost every stride. In fact, it is WELL

RECOGNIZED by the racewalking community that most racewalkers regularly leave the ground

and may even be in the air up to 10% of the timeso EVERYONE is breaking the rules.

Now, there are plenty of arbitrary rules in sportbut the fact that most athletes break

the traditional DEFINING rule for this sport, is, to say the leastsurprising.

And this isn't like the suspicion that almost all professional cyclists are doping, because

unlike our constant struggle to test and catch dopers, we are well within the technological

means to catch "ungrounded" racewalkers. It seems clear that the technophobia in racewalking

stems from the fact that if racewalkers started using high speed cameras, they might no longer

have a sport.

And that brings into question the very essence of sport - because all games, really, are

just an arbitrary set of rules and limitations that we submit to for the purpose of having

fun and challenging ourselves. I mean, there's a reason that track and field forbids bicycles,

cycling forbids motorcycles, and motorcycle racing forbids rockets

Maybe those reasons are just as arbitrary as racewalking's ban on technologybecause

the goal isn't to keep your feet on the ground - it's to see who's fastest doing a funny

walk, just like triple jump is to see who can go the farthest doing a funny jump, hurdles

are to see who can run the fastest with plastic barriers in the way, and tennis is to see

who can hit a ball over a net the best, but only within certain carefully drawn lines

and with a racquet and not a paddle or hands or feet. Sport, ultimately, is not about the

sport, but about the players and their struggles. It's about how far we're able to push the

boundaries of human abilitywithin the boundaries set by the rules.

So is racewalking a sport in denial, desperately holding on to its past and blatantly refusing

to accept technological advances that in principle improve the judging of the sport, but in reality

shake its very foundations? I don't knowbut are racewalkers athletes? Most certainly.

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