Slovakia's Matej Toth Clinches 50km Race Walking Gold

Gold: Matej Toth (Slovakia), 3:40:58
Silver: Jarred Talent (Australia), 3:41:16
Bronze: Hirooki Arai (Japan), 3:41:26

Slovakia's Matej Toth won gold in the 50km walk at Rio 2016 Games, finishing in 3:40:58.

It is Toth's first Olympic medal, despite competing in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In 2015, Toth won the race at the 2015 World Championships.

Australia's Jarred Talent finished second. Previously, he won gold in the 50km walk at the London 2012 Games and silver in the event at the Beijing 2008 Games. Also in Beijing, Tallent took bronze in the 20km walk.

For the race’s first hour, France's Yohann Diniz led the competition by about 30 seconds. He established a significant lead early on, and was approximately 30 seconds ahead of all other competitors.

Diniz, 38, held onto his lead early in the second hour, ahead of Slovakia’s Matej Toth. At the 20km mark, Toth trailed Diniz by 1 minute and 23 seconds. 

The Frenchman hit the halfway point at 1:49:31. Toth, Japan’s Hirooki Arai and Canada's Evan Dunfee followed, all hitting the 25km mark at exactly 1:51:11. 

But the plot thickened about two and a half hours into the race. Diniz had to stop walking, looking exhausted. Dunfee caught up to the Frenchman and patted him on the shoulder, motivating Diniz to continue forward despite pain.

The two were neck-and-neck until about the 35km mark, which saw Dunfee take the lead.   At 2:45, Diniz collapsed. He got up to finish the race, but lagged far behind.

Diniz was injured for a large part of 2015. After an operation to address “persistent pain”, he returned to his chosen sport. Though Diniz was disqualified from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, he previously earned the sport’s world record time of 3:32:22 in 2014.

The last 10km of the race saw Tallent emerge toward the front of the pack. He had previously won gold in London with his Olympic record 3:36:53 finish time.

With 5km to go, Tallent led Toth and Arai. But Toth caught up and ultimately finished first, grabbing a Slovakian flag from the crowd just before he broke the tape.

In total, more than 11 athletes were disqualified and 11 pulled out during the race.

Racewalking is one of the Olympics’ most interesting sports – one in which athletes walk as fast as possible, but not run. Based on human eye judgment, a racer must keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. Should an athlete misstep, an official will flash them with a colored paddle.  A serious enough violation, or multiple infractions, can result in disqualification. 

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