Veteran walker walks the walk to win titles

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

AN APTLY-named veteran race walker is keeping pace with his younger rivals.

Recent weeks have seen Wrexham Athletics Club member Stephen Walker, 53, claim two national gold medals and a silver despite being significantly older than many of his competitors.

He claimed gold in the Welsh masters 3km race walk in Cardiff and Welsh senior 3km race in Wrexham and took a silver in the British masters 5km race in Horwich, adding the accolades to his status of British 5km race walk champion in the male 50 age group.

The races are performed in front of judges who constantly monitor every step in case there is any indication the participant may be running.

One foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times meaning the athletes face the dual challenge of stringently complying with the rules while trying to go as fast as possible.

“It’s a lot more demanding than people might think,” said Stephen, who combines his own athletics achievements with coaching youngsters with learning disabilities.

“You are never out of eye contact with a judge.Every single stride is being monitored and if you are seen breaking the rules, you will be disqualified.

“I have watched 50km races in the Olympics where somebody will be disqualified for making an illegal move.”

Stephen began race walking in 2004 when health reasons meant running competitively was no longer viable and he has gone on to enjoy success in numerous races since then.

“I would certainly recommend it to anyone. If they cannot run and feel embarrassed running, then this is a great alternative.”

Stephen took particular delight in winning the senior title in Wrexham for the second successive year, with the majority of contestants aged 20 to 35.

“This is really special for me,” he said. “Not only have I become the oldest man to win, and defend, a Welsh senior men’s athletics title, but it was on my home track.”

Despite having moved to South Wales last year Stephen continues to represent Wrexham Athletics Club and makes frequent visits back to the area to compete.

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