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58-year-old grandma finishes 3rd at US Olympic race walking event

Michelle Rohl competed in her last Olympic Games in 2000.
US Track Trials Athletics
Posted at 9:49 AM, Jul 03, 2024

Nearly 32 years after making her first appearance in the Olympics representing Team USA, American Michelle Rohl returned to the U.S. Olympic Team Trial for the first time in decades.

Rohl attempted to qualify for the Olympics, placing third last week at the U.S. Olympics Team Trial in the 20-kilometer race walk. She completed the race walk in an hour, 42 minutes and 26 seconds. Her time was not quite enough to meet the Olympic Standard and automatically qualify for the Paris games, but it was good enough to get her on the podium as one of the top three American women.

With her third-place finish, Rohl showed that she could still compete at a high level 20 years after retiring to homeschool her children. Rohl was the oldest competitor at this year's U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

"My first Olympic trials in '92, I was third, and I had a baby then. Now I've got a grandbaby and I'm third again. I thought that was kind of cool," Rohl told Olympics.com.

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In 1992, Rohl competed in the 10-kilometer race walk and finished No. 20 with a time of 46 minutes and 45 seconds. Four years later, she had her best finish ever at the Olympics, coming in No. 13 with a time of 44 minutes and 29 seconds in the 10-kilometer race walk. In 2000, she did the 20-kilometer race walk in one hour, 34 minutes and 26 seconds.

What is race walking?

Although it's a relatively obscure sport, race walking has long been part of the Olympics. There have been race walking events held at the Olympics since 1908, although the distances for the events have changed over the years.

A women's race walking event was held in the Olympics for the first time in 1992. In 1992 and 1996, race walking was a 10-kilometer event. Since 2000, women participating in race walking move for 20 kilometers.

Unlike running, race walkers must keep one foot on the ground at all times. Race walkers' advanced leg also cannot bend and the leg must straighten as the body passes over it. Judges can penalize race walkers if both feet lose contact with the ground or if the walker bends their knee. Judges can disqualify a walker after three violations.

The United States has never earned a medal in the women's race walking event. Larry Young earned bronze medals in 1968 and 1972 as the last man to earn a medal in race walking.