Today will be remembered as the day race walking became the Olympics’ most savage sport: This morning, record-holding race walker Yohann Diniz — a tenacious, hip-swinging machine of a Frenchman — straight-up shit himself, passed out, got back up, and marched himself to the finish line of the 50-kilometer race, where he finished seventh out of the 48 competitors that managed to complete the course.
If that’s not hardcore, what is?
Race walking, despite its misleading misnomer, is not a sport to be taken lightly. Diniz covered all 50 kilometers — a distance equivalent to the entire perimeter of the island of Manhattan — in three hours, 46 minutes, and 43 seconds. That means he raced at a speed of roughly 8.24 miles per hour, which is an incredible feat (the fastest marathon, for context, was run at an average speed of 12.43 miles per hour) — and that’s not even counting the time he took to crap his pants and black out on the hot asphalt!
You can’t fault Diniz’s bodily functions from failing. Race walkers don’t just reach incredibly high speeds; they do so within the strict physical confines prescribed by the sport, which require that the athlete remain in contact with the ground at all times, keeping the leading leg locked in a straight position when it strikes the ground. Any deviation from the rules could result in instant disqualification.
Not surprisingly, all of these unnatural, jerky movements put a lot of mechanical stress on the body, which can result in, well, accidents. Long-distance runners are well aware of a condition innocently referred to as “runner’s trots” — essentially, mid-run diarrhea — which are thought to result from the intense physical sensation of pounding the pavement as well as the dearth of blood flowing to the intestines and its related sphincters.
Despite himself, Diniz went for the gold. The fact that he maintained the presence of mind to pick himself up and still adhere to the regulations in Rio’s 81-degree heat over the course of almost four hours is, in itself, admirable. So what if he finished with a literal shit stain on his leg? He finished, achieving a spot in the top eight in his first Olympics and propelling his sport to unprecedented notoriety, and that was enough.