World 20km race walk champion Eider Arévalo from Colombia shares his passion for the discipline and why he does it.
“I started race walking because I saw some friends try the sport and I immediately liked the dedication needed to excel. I also enjoyed the technical elements to race walking and the time needed to master the event. It was also something different, a sport that demands a lot from you and squeezes every last drop of energy when competing.
“As soon as I first started race walking, I loved the joy that race walking brought me and the passion for the event.
“I enjoyed a big breakthrough as a 17-year-old at the 2010 World Cup in Chihuahua in Mexico. I did not have a lot of experience but I managed to win the U20 race in a national junior record of 42:13. Winning that race opened up the possibility that I could achieve so much more in the sport both in U20 competition and at a senior level, and in 2012 I qualified, aged just 19, for the 20km race walk at the London 2012 Olympics (he finished 20th).
“Over time I drew a lot of inspiration from Luis Fernando López (the 2011 World 20km Race Walk champion from Colombia), who I started training with in 2009. I always saw him as an example to follow and I have grown up a lot thanks to his advice. Jefferson Pérez (the 1996 Olympic and three-time World 20km Race Walk gold medallist), who has also been a positive influence since I was small. From the age of 12 I was compared with Jefferson in terms of my style. He always said I was not like him, that I was my own athlete – and personally I think I do not deserve to be compared with him.
“I love to race walk because it is one of the most demanding tests in athletics – which requires supreme physical strength and mental strength. I consider myself very strong, particularly mentally.
“I try to enjoy every kilometre in training and I also love to be able to achieve each goal I set out to pursue.
“Race walking has also allowed me to make new friends throughout the world and I also find there is a great pride in succeeding for my country. But I think I feel at my happiest, when I put together a very strong training session. This can often draw tears of joy – and, at that moment, I know all the hard work and sacrifices are worth it.
Steve Landells for the IAAF