Gold medal times in the 20km walking race at the Summer Olympics 1956-2016

At the Summer Olympics, the 20km walking race has been a regular men's event since 1956, and a regular woman's event since 2000. The Olympic records were set in 2012, and the world records were set in 2015. The Olympic record for men was set by China's Chen Ding, with a time of 78 minutes and 46 seconds, and the women's record was set by Russia's Elena Lashmanova, with a time of 85 minutes and 2 seconds. The world record for men was set by Japan's Yusuke Suzuki, with a time of 76 minutes and 36 seconds, and the women's world record was set by China's Liu Hong, with a time of 84 minutes and 38 seconds. The Soviet Union's Volodymyr Holubnychy is the only athlete to have ever won two gold medals in the 20km walk, in 1960 and 1968. Athletes representing twelve different countries have won golds across both the men's and women's events, with China taking four golds in total.


It is a common misconception that competitors must have at least one foot on the ground at all times. In reality, contestants frequently have both feet off the ground, but this is only a punishable offense when the loss of contact becomes visible to the human eye. Although there is frequent video evidence that athletes may be "flying", judges are not allowed to use video assistance, therefore these infractions usually go unnoticed as the competitors have such a high cadence rates (i.e. steps per minute). To put this into context, Olympic race walkers have a similar cadence rate to those athletes running in the Olympic 800 meters.

Gold medal winning times in the Men's and Women's 20km walking race at the Summer Olympics from 1956 to 2016

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Release date




Survey time period

1956 to 2016

Supplementary notes

This data was collected using the official site, as well as a spreadsheet from the Guardian that includes data from 1896-2008 (available here), 2012 and 2016 data was compared with that from Encyclopaedia Britannica, and several news outlets were used to update the table when medals were reassigned (i.e. for doping offenses).

In order to display the data visually, the times have been converted into metric minutes. The standard times (male listed first) are as follows (mm:ss):
1956 - 91:27
1960 - 94:07
1964 - 89:34
1968 - 93:58
1972 - 86:43
1976 - 84:41
1980 - 83:36
1984 - 83:13
1988 - 79:57
1992 - 81:45
1996 - 80:07
2000 - 78:59 & 89:05
2004 - 79:04 & 89:12
2008 - 79:01 & 86:31
2012 - 78:46 & 85:02
2016 - 79:14 & 88:35

The winning athletes (male listed first) and their represented countries are as follows:
1956 - Leonid Spirin (Soviet Union)
1960 - Vladimir Golubnichy (Soviet Union)
1964 - Kenneth Joseph Matthews (Great Britain)
1968 - Vladimir Golubnichy (Soviet Union)
1972 - Peter Frenkel (East Germany)
1976 - Daniel Bautista Rocha (Mexico)
1980 - Maurizio Damilano (Italy)
1984 - Ernesto Canto (Mexico)
1988 - Jozef Pribilinec (Czechoslovakia)
1992 - Daniel Plaza (Spain)
1996 - Jefferson Perez (Ecuador)
2000 - Robert Korzeniowski (Poland) & Wang Liping (China)
2004 - Ivano Brugnetti (Italy) & Athanasia Tsoumeleka (Greece)
2008 - Valeriy Borchin (Russia) & Olga Kaniskina (Russia)
2012 - Chen Ding (China) & Elena Lashmanova (Russia)
2016 - Wang Zhen (China) & Liu Hong (China)

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