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  • I watched the 50km Men's Walk of the Summer Olympics London 2012 in its entirety. The men grouped before the starting line, the two commentators gave the skimpiest of skimpy who's who. Olympic diplomacy, no doubt, and protocol.

    I saw him at once, the one I would root for. He stood right in front, in sky-blue and white. The oldest of them all. That's who I want to win. (What can I say. I am 54.) The commentators give him a glance and a nod. He was at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but DNF.

    The walk began and as it progressed the two men note in their commentary that Kirdyapkin and 25 year old Bakulin of Russia worked as a team. There's another Russian athlete; he's somewhere in the middle of the group.

    Yohann Diniz of France stands tall in front right behind the two Russians. It is a matter of course that everyone assembled there is tres formidable. And Diniz no less. He won Gold twice in the 50km Walk European Championships, in 2006 in Gothenburg, and in 2010 in Barcelona. He was the silver medalist in the Osaka 2007 World Championships.

    Two athletes from Guatemala, Erick Barrondo and Jaime Quiyuch, are also in front, behind the two Russians, along with highly regarded Deakes of Australia. Barrondo won Guatemala's first ever Olympic medal when he walked his way to the Silver in the 20km walk August 4. He is 21 years old. My Sergey - both Kirdyapkin and Bakulin are named Sergey - is 32 years of age.

    The walk races through over three hours of a beautiful, albeit windless, London summer day on the Mall, towards Buckingham Palace, round Queen Victoria's Memorial, down and back up again twenty-five times. Names. Faces. Countries. Jesus Angel Garcia of Spain, Heffernan of Ireland. Two from Japan; one DNF and one looked like he also would NF, his hand on his chest, but after a while he continued. Hellas. Chile. I don't see Great Britain. Or the United States. The commentators don't see them either.

    I saw Deakes in front with Kirdyapkin and Bakulin and then he fell behind. The commentators reiterate the Australians are to watch. They are easy to spot. They stand out among the mostly white worded tops. Even the red of the Chinese athletes, Si and Li, pales beside their distinctive gold and green.

    Si was in front with the Russian leaders at first. Then he fell back. Then he caught up - leaving the commentators wondering how - and raced ahead, to take a strong lead.

    Things did not go so smoothly for all the racers. France's Diniz inexplicably fell by the side of the walk way. Yellow flags flash warnings. Red flags pull at least two out of their hard-won bid for Olympic gold to their excruciating disappointment. One is Jaime Quiyuch of Guatemala who was at that time walking at the side of the leading Russian. For a time there the Guatemalans walked close to the leader, one on each side.

    It is not easy to watch the judges and those red flags for "loss of contact" with the ground. Quiyuch takes it hard. But the Olympic logo flashes white disarmingly across the screen, reminding us all of the point of it all, international sportmanship as world peace.

    Chile relegates it all to the heavens when he looks skywards as the red flag leads him out of the race.

    "There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." Great Britain's Shakespeare

    It is said Si Tian Feng of China is the one who sprung a surprise on the watching world. From being in front, he had fallen back, and then caught up to take the lead.

    For me it is Tallent, representing Australia (those commentators knew something). At the starting line, the trendy racers of this Athletics part of the XXX Olympiad, almost all of them, looked "cool" in sunglasses and cap. And the coolest of them all was JaredTallent. He was not part of the leading group but that did not seem to make him hurry. He did not mind the heat. He was unflappably steady. I thought he looked as untroubled about the matter at hand (or should I say at foot) as he would relaxing on one of his Australian beaches. Truly he personified Australia who hails - and regales - you with "No worries, mate."

    My Sergey on the other hand was fully focused, visibly concentrating, like Bakulin, and Erokhin. And, as the commentators pointed out, they worked as a team. Kirdyapkin would look at Bakulin, race-walking at his side, the other contenders for world champion at their heels. Then Kirdyapkin lost the lead and fell behind. Bakulin glances back at Erokhin, now in the front group. Then all three fall behind, but they catch up with one another and march together, a focused, determined team of three.

    Somehow they are again in the front and then, as the commentary declares, it's "every man for himself."

    Kirdyapkin takes the lead and then the Gold. It's a sight to behold - the crossing of that finish line. Beijing Olympics 2008 DNF is as ecstatic as he permits himself to be - and the commentators are thrilled. Sergey Kirdyapkin of Russia raises the Olympic record of 3 hours 37 minutes 9 seconds for the 50km racewalk by 1 minute 10 seconds.

    AND THEN along comes Tallent, the coolest of the cool racers (I think, anyway). One step over the finish line, he is Silver, and he is on his knees: To God be the Glory, great things He hath done.
    Then he waits for Si, whom he overtook, of course, and holds out his hand to Si and Silver and Bronze meet in a handshake.

    Heffernan of Ireland is fourth. Igor Erokhin, the third Russian, is fifth. Sergey Bakulin was 6th. Li Jian Bo of China was 7th. And Matej Toth of Slovakia, 8th. Soon even those at the back have trickled in. A number make the sign of the cross. They give Him the Glory, great things He has done.

    But wait, did I say the commentators did not see Great Britain? Here he comes, about first from the bottom. (The 51st. After that they stop counting) He is King. King by name and King by nature. We have not seen so many hands clamouring as those out-stretched to touch King's. He acknowledges them all, the Union flags, the supporters loyal to him to-the-very-end, taking off his cap to them. Someone gets Great Britain's flag to him and he walks to the finish line, the British flag his well-deserved contingental cloak, in a blaze of glory.

    P.S. The commentators and the cameras praised the athlete racewalking for America, John Nunn. He was 43rd. No worries, mate. The United States is First in the Class of Competing Countries of the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
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