A world record in race walking is erased after the course was measured wrong

Peru’s Kimberly García set a world record in her gold-medal winning turn at the women’s 20 kilometer race walk event at the Pan American Games this weekend.

Until she didn’t. Once the race was over, organizers determined there was a serious “measuring problem” with the track, making the race times of García, fellow medal winners Glenda Morejon of Ecuador and Peru’s Evelyn Inga, and their competitors null and void. The athletes guessed the track had been drawn up roughly 3 kilometers (about 1.9 miles) shorter than it was supposed to be.

García crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 12 minutes and 26 seconds. The world record of 1 hour, 23 minutes and 49 seconds is held by China’s Jiayu Yang.

The athletes suspected something was amiss mid-race, according to the Associated Press.

“We realized it since the first kilometer. The time did not coincide with the distance. It was more about us focusing on our feelings not to lose control,” García was quoted saying after the race. “It didn’t affect myself alone, I wanted the Pan American record. Other girls wanted a spot in the Olympic Games. It is a shame that will not happen because the weather, everything was fit for good timings.”

The Santiago 2023 Corporation, the group in charge of the 2023 Pan American Games, placed the blame on the Pan American Athletics Association, which reportedly chose the person who measured the race course.

In a statement following the race, Santiago 2023 said the official who measured the course “did not take accurate measurements of the route the athletes took during the race.”

The group continued, “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.”

NPR could not reach the association for comment.

García, a decorated race walk athlete, became the first Peruvian woman in history to win the gold medal in this sport at the Pan American Games. Previously, she’s won two other gold medals at the 2022 World Athletics Championships.

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