June 19th, 2024

Wrong distance takes women’s walk race athletes to mistaken record at Pan Am Games

By Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press on October 29, 2023.

Peru's Gabriela Kimberly Garcia competes in the women's 20km race walk final at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – Peru’s Kimberly García thought she set the world record in the women’s 20 kilometers walk race at the Pan American Games. She later found out she didn’t.

Organizers of the largest multi-sports in the continent said in a statement that the times of the race were annulled due to “a measuring problem” in Santiago’s O’Higgins Park. They blamed the Association of Pan American Athletics for the mistake.

Athletes believe the distance they ran in Chile was about 3 kilometers (almost 1.9 miles) shorter.

The gross mistake adds to Santiago’s woes in the organization of the Pan American Games, which started on Oct. 20 and finish on Nov. 5.

García finished her race in a cold and damp morning in 1 hour, 12 minutes and 26 seconds. The record belongs to China’s Jiayu Yang in 1 hour, 23 minutes and 49 seconds.

Eleven other competitors seemingly finished their race below the world record.

“We do control our pace a lot and right out of the gate, in our first lap, we say the pace was too strong. It was quicker than the men’s,” said Brazilian Viviane Lyra, who finished fourth. “We knew there was something strange, so our goal wasn’t even taking the timing into consideration.”

The Pan American Games organization said it filled its role by hiring Marcelo Ithurralde, an expert commissioned by the association, to take the measurements for the race.

“He did not take accurate measurements of the route the athletes took during the race,” organizers said. “We deeply regret the inconvenience for the athletes, their coaches, the public and the attending press, but this situation cannot be attributed to the Organizing Committee.”

The Association of Pan American Athletics didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The mistake delayed the men’s competition by one hour. The walk race requires competitors to always have at least one foot on the ground.

Garcia still celebrated her gold medal. Organizers didn’t respond whether her result stands despite the measuring issue.

Organization problems at the Pan American Games have included trash scattered outside competition venues in the four days following the Opening Ceremony, threats of a strike from the private security company working the events and a leak in the handball venue of Viña del Mar, outside Santiago.

The leak cut short Saturday’s women’s handball match between Chile and Brazil. The Brazilians won 30-10 and will play the final against Argentina.

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