10/02/2023   France and Italy: the usual story of poor relatives






The exclusion of walking from the French Athletics Indoor Championships, recently announced by the French Athletics Federation (FFA), caused quite a stir in France. The French walkers were very surprised and expressed their disgust.

As reported by the sports daily «L'Équipe» in its edition of 24 January, the decision to move on to the French combined and race walking championships, which will be held on 11 and 12 February in Val-de-Reuil, had been ratified in a federal meeting of November 8, but contradicting the information transmitted a few days earlier to the athletes who had been guaranteed that the cancellation of the disciplinary events of the Elite Championships was out of the question.


Questioned in mid-January by the same sports newspaper about the exclusion of race walking from the Elite Championships, the president of the FFA, André Giraud, replied by stating that in France there would be an Elite indoor track championship, as part of a program involving all the categories of the discipline, together with the combined tests. And he added that the goal was to gather all the family of the march in the same place.

Even the national technical director, Patrick Ranvier, complained of misunderstandings and said that the federation wanted to draw more attention to the walk, bringing together the families of the discipline in a common demonstration. “This is not to annoy the race walkers, especially since the federation considers race walking to be a booming industry,” he said, after pointing out that race walking no longer counts for international indoor competitions.


The reactions of the French demonstrators were not long in coming and manifested themselves in a denial with one voice of the Federation's decision.


The 50km world record holder, Yohann Diniz, said he didn't understand how to remove the foundations from a generation like the one that currently has French walking. “The results speak for themselves, both among elite and younger race walkers. They are removing the only two competitions with visibility in France, the elite indoor and outdoor championships, in which athletics as a whole is added. Since I left, our discipline has been the target of the greatest injustice", he said, recalling that the problem now felt on the indoor track also involves the absolute summer championships.


Aurélien Quinion tunes into the same mood and seeks an explanation for the federation's decision. "In the elite indoor track championships, the walking competitions were often already scheduled for the Sunday session, around noon, together with the combined events, when there are still very few people in the stands, so it can't even be said that walking is very boring", he comments, before expressing himself, despite everything, not at all surprised by the exclusion: "On the one hand, we are in a moment in which sport, fashion and television shows are valued. And we realize that the notion of 'spectacle' is the criterion of the federation. Instead, what annoys and disappoints me the most is that my federation, which should be at the forefront of defending its athletes and its disciplines, is contributing to the disappearance of race walking".


And let's see in the "Bel Paese".


As far as we know, fortunately in Italy, at the moment this problem does not exist. Perhaps it will be the effect of Sapporo 2021 and the two gold medals, but even in the Bel Paese race walk does not seem to be well liked except for what comes with its contribution of medals.

There are very few meetings to host race walking at an outdoor level, almost non-existent prizes for elite athletes, and much more. In short, history repeats itself.


However, the older ones among us will perhaps remember that after Maurizio Damilano's victory in Moscow 1980 there was the usual dark period also in Italy with a series of federal councilors who pressed for the exclusion of race walking as well as from indoor competitions also from the Championships of Clubs.

In a historic Federal Council of the time (year 1985) held in the "Sala Consolini" of Fidal in Rome, the then historic president Primo Nebiolo, impatient with these insistent and provocative requests for elimination, came out in this way.

He invited all the councilors to stand up and turn towards a thousand photos of the room where all the names of the winners of Olympic gold medals were engraved under the Italian banner, inviting those present to count how many had arrived up to then from the march and concluding by saying "That's why race walk must remain in the Club Championships”.


In an instant the room fell silent and we moved on to other topics on the agenda. 

Let's do that trick again now, it would be even more interesting, given that since then a few gold medals in race walking have been collected.


Come on, French friends, all that remains is to acknowledge that we are loved only for the medals we win !

Unfortunately it is a sadness, but we are with you because we understand you.