With a surprisingly dominant showing in the men's 50-kilometer walk Friday at Sapporo Odori Park, Poland's Dawid Tomala, 31, earned what might be the last-ever Olympic gold medal in the event.
The future of the Olympic 50km walk is uncertain. The event already has been excised from the Paris 2024 program, and thereafter is open to debate. The athletes on Friday surely made that debate a lot more favorable on the "Keep this!" side of the discussion, providing drama and excitement from start to finish.
All alone out front for much of the race's latter stages, and leading by more than three minutes at the 40-km mark, Tomala exhaustedly enjoyed his historic golden moment with teary eyes after he'd left several of the event's marquee names in his wake. Tomala led the race for more than two hours.
The podium in Tokyo Olympics was missing any of the 50km medalists from the event at Rio 2016. Well back of Tomala, a group of five walkers bunched together in a final push for the podium as Tomala was finishing with his country's flag draped around his shoulders. Silver went to Jonathan Hilbert of Germany, and bronze went to Canada's Evan Dunfee, who was fourth in Rio, after he overtook Spain's Marc Tur on Friday in the final meters.
Tomala's victory was only his second in international competition; he won the 20km walk at the 2011 Under-23 European Championships. His only Olympic experience prior to Tokyo came at London 2012, where he finished 19th in the 20km walk.
He'd never even competed at 50km prior to qualifying for Tokyo at an event in Slovakia this March.
Well back of Tomala, a group of five walkers bunched together in a final push for the podium as Tomala was finishing. Silver went to Jonathan Hilbert of Germany, bronze to Canada's Evan Dunfee, who overtook Spain's Marc Tur in the final meters.
One of the event's true legends, 45-year-old Joao Viera of Portugal, was part of the aforementioned five-pack but faded near the end and just missed claiming the first Olympic medal of his storied career. Viera, who finished fifth Friday, won silver at the most recent world championships.
Rio 2016's gold medalist in the event, Matej Toth of Slovakia, finished well out of contention in 17th place.