Olympic Men’s 20K Walk — Joining The Italian Greats

Massimo Stano’s big margin of victory gave Italy yet another major walk medal. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

TRA-DITION, TRA-DITION-TRA-DITION. One hundred and one years after his nation crowned its first Olympic walk champion, a seventh Italian has mounted the ultimate Games throne.

Move over, Ugo Frigerio, Giuseppe Dordoni, Maurizio Damilano, et al. You’ve got company now.

A rousing final 3K carried 29-year-old Massimo Stano to a storming 1:21:05 triumph over principal Japanese rivals Koki Okeda (1:21:14) and favored Toshikazu Yamanishi (1:21:28) around a 1K circuit at Sapporo’s Odori Park on a steamy afternoon.

Stano, once a middle distance runner, had lowered the Italian Record to 1:17:45 in ’19, but still was a Sapporo long-shot. Our formchart didn’t even put him in the top 10. He cared not.

“Every day, in my mind, I repeated, ‘I am the strongest, I am the strongest,’ and I was,” he exulted. “My only strategy was to stay in front.” His twin dedications were to Italy’s storied racewalk history, and 4-month-old daughter Sophie.

This was the 17th Olympic 20K in a series that began at Melbourne in ’56 and delivered a finish as appropriately close as most of its predecessors. Not since Damilano’s epic win at Moscow in ’80 (by all of 70 seconds) has an Olympic 20K been decided by more than a minute. Recent results have been as close as 0:12 (’16), 0:11 (’12) and 0:14 (’08) and this one followed the script.

The massed pack of 57 stayed jammed up through the early loops before China’s Kaihua Wang and India’s Sandeep Kumar sped through 9K in 36:55, mini-gapping the chasers.

Calmer rivals wisely bided their time, as first Kumar (destined to struggle home 23rd) and then Wang (who’d finish 7th) gradually dropped back. Spain’s Álvaro Martín and Diego García Carrera remained in the medal hunt through 17K (1:09:42) before the homestretch sprinters took over.

Stano broke clear with a 3:43 concluding lap and the gold was his. Ikeda outkicked countryman Yamanishi (the 2019 world champion), 3:52 to 4:00.

Just missing the medal stand were Martín (1:21:46) and Germany’s Christopher Linke (1:21:50), who edged out García Carrera.

Even with the 500-odd mile (c800km) move north from Tokyo, this was no day to beat the heat — or to set records. The Olympic best-ever — 1:18:45 by China’s Ding Chen in London — was never endangered. Chen was succeeded by countryman Wang Zhen in 2016 but there were to be no medals for China this time. On the other hand, the two for Japan were Olympic firsts.

As Stano surged, Ikeda kept looking over his shoulder in the final K, conceding, “I really wanted to keep up with Stano, but I kept getting left behind. But I still wanted make sure I got the silver medal.”

He bowed to the ground after finishing, a tribute to all who’d supported him as well as his nation that had staged the Games amid adversity. “I did not compete alone.”

Lone American entry Nick Christie wound up 50th (1:34:37). Just two American 20K men, Rudy Haluza (4th in ’68) and Ron Zinn (6th in ’64) have ever gone top-6.

How times have changed, mused previous Tokyo Olympian Jack Mortland: “My 1:36:35, good for 17th in 1964, would have beaten one finisher. “But the good thing about 1964 was starting and finishing in the stadium in front of 70-some thousand enthusiastic fans, something this year’s competitors missed.”


(Sapporo, August 05; 1K loop) (temperature 88–86F/31–30C; humidity 63–73%)

1. Massimo Stano (Ita) 1:21:05

(21:05, 20:00 [41:05], 20:22 [1:01:27], 19:38)


2. Koki Ikeda (Jpn) 1:21:14


3. Toshikazu Yamanishi (Jpn) 1:21:28


4. Álvaro Martín (Spa) 1:21:46


5. Christopher Linke (Ger) 1:21:50


6. Diego García Carrera (Spa) 1:21:57


7. Kaihua Wang (Chn) 1:22:03


8. Jun Zhang (Chn) 1:22:16


9. Perseus Karlström (Swe) 1:22:29; 10. Callum Wilkinson (GB) 1:22:38; 11. Andrés Olivas (Mex) 1:22:46; 12. Brian Pintado (Ecu) 1:22:54; 13. Caio Bonfim (Bra) 1:23:21; 14. Manuel Soto (Col) 1:23:32; 15. Francesco Fortunato (Ita) 1:23:43; 16. Kevin Campion (Fra) 1:23:53; 17. Declan Tingay (Aus) 1:24:00 PR; 18. Eider Arévalo (Col) 1:24:10; 19. David Hurtado (Ecu) 1:24:31; 20. Wayne Snyman (SA) 1:24:33;

21. César Rodríguez (Per) 1:24:40; 22. Leo Köpp (Ger) 1:24:46; 23. Sandeep Kumar Sangwan (Ind) 1:25:07; 24. Gabriel Bordier (Fra) 1:25:23; 25. Tom Bosworth (GB) 1:25:57; 26. Zelin Cai (Chn) 1:26:39; 27. John Alexander Castañeda (Col) 1:26:41; 28. Nils Brembach (Ger) 1:26:45; 29. David Kenny (Ire) 1:26:54; 30. José Oswaldo Calel (Gua) 1:26:55;

31. Miguel Ángel López (Spa) 1:27:12; 32. Eiki Takahashi (Jpn) 1:27:29; 33. Marius Žiūkas (Lit) 1:27:35; 34. Sahin Senoduncu (Tur) 1:27:39; 35. Jordy Jiménez (Ecu) 1:27:52; 36. Kyle Swan (Aus) 1:27:55; 37. Byeong-Kwang Choe (SK) 1:28:12; 38. Noel Ali Chama (Mex) 1:28:23; 39. Georgiy Sheiko (Kaz) 1:28:38; 40. José Ortíz (Gua) 1:28:57;

41. Miroslav Úradník (Svk) 1:29:25; 42. Jesús Vega (Mex) 1:30:37; 43. Luis Campos (Per) 1:30:58; 44. Federico Tontodonati (Ita) 1:31:19; 45. Aliaksandr Liakhovich (Blr) 1:31:28; 46. Matheus Gabriel Correa (Bra) 1:31:47; 47. Rahul Rohila (Ind) 1:32:06; 48. Abdulselam Imük (Tur) 1:32:27; 49. Ivan Losev (Ukr) 1:33:26; 50. Nick Christie (US) 1:34:37; 51. Kolothum Thodi Irfan (Ind) 1:34:41; 52. Eduard Zabuzhenko (Ukr) 1:39:38;

… dq—José Alejandro Barrondo (Gua), Vasiliy Mizinov (Rus);… dnf—Luca Mazzo (Bra), Salih Korkmaz (Tur), Łukasz Niedziałek (Pol).

(5K leader splits: K. Wang 20:52; K. Wang 40:55; Stano 1:01:27) ◻︎