Hiago Garcia: The Crazy Life of a Race Walker
Hiago Garcia is a race walker with an impressive resume. Garcia has a number of championships and titles under his belt, and has no plans of putting an end to making a name for himself anytime soon. This past week, I had the pleasure of asking Garcia a variety of questions about the state of the sport and his future plans.
Dan Cohen: What does a typical week of training look like for you?
Hiago Garcia: A typical week of training to me is training 35 km (22 miles) every day. 11 miles morning and plus 11 miles afternoon. Totaling 210 km (130 miles) per week. Daily training depends on the day of the week. Generally, on Monday we do longer trainings with a set time for each kilometer walked, that is, we [walk] 11 miles in the morning and every mile [in] 7 minutes, for example. And the afternoon again 11 miles with the same pace. Tuesday we do acceleration trainings, that means, more fast pace. Some times the pace of training should be the same pace of a competition. Like for example I can walk 1 mile in 5 minutes and 54 seconds…. And not just once, we trained accelerations on this pace time over and over again.
DC: What is your ultimate goal in race walking?
HG: My goal is to become an Olympic medalist. I was almost going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for a few minutes and I could not get my place. But I’m still young, I want to achieve my dreams in the 2020 Olympics. And who knows, I can reach a medal too.
DC: Are there any other professional racewalkers that you look up to or that you consider a mentor?
HG: Yes, my coach Alexey Voeyvodin. World Champion, Olympic Bronze medalist, European Champion and etc…
DC: What is the toughest event you ever competed in?
HG: 2015 Russian Race walking Championships when I [became] National Silver medalist and did my personal best in the 20 km. Because I did not expect to be the champion. There were many other athletes better than me. But I managed to surprise myself.
DC: How long do you think you can compete for?
HG: I think I’ll compete until I’m 35–40. After that I’m going to end my sports career.
DC: What are your career plans after race walking?
HG: After Race walking I want to be a coach and open a school of Race walkers. Because I want to pass everything I know to my future athletes. And if one day I can not fulfill my dream of being an Olympic medalist, I want one of my future athletes to conquer what I did not conquered.
DC: If you did not become a professional racewalker, what other sport could you have competed in at the professional level?
HG: I think it would be Judoka or Cross county skiing. I practiced Judo when I was less than 10 years old. And I think I was a good judoka at that time.
DC: What got you into race walking?
HG: I’m originally from Brazil , but living in Russia since 2013. I’ve become 3X Brazilian Champion, South American Vice-Champion. Record holder of Brazilian Northern area. Vice-Champion of Russian National Race Walking Cup. Champion of Russian National University Championships. And more…
DC: What’s the culture around Race Walking? How do you feel towards any existing or potential stigmas?
HG: I think the Race walking culture is more in the European, Asian and some Latin counties… I think up North America isn’t too famous this kinda sport, but I see it’s changing… The media [has given] more attention [to]Race walking and seeing that Race walking is [a] very difficult kinda sport and isn’t for everyone…
DC: What would you say to those who think racewalking is easy?
HG: If they think is easy walk 20 km (12 miles) in 6min 10sec per mile or 50 km (31 miles) in 6:57 per mile, training every day 21 miles and sometimes even Sundays has training. Marathon runners and Race walkers are the most difficult track and field events. Marathon runners and Race walkers training much more than any other athlete in Track and Field. Race walking is considered the most difficult event of track and field because you do not just walk very fast, you have to walk very fast and you have to obey the two rules of the Race walking without being disqualified before the finish line and being judged by 10 judges During a course of 2 km each lap. The rules are fluctuation and knee blockage. The fluctuation is when one of the judges sees that the athlete is with both feet off the asphalt (In the Race walking one of the feet has to be always in contact with the asphalt all the time), and the Knee block is when the knee does not enter fully Extended when the heel makes first contact with the ground. That’s why some people think it’s funny when they’re looking like we’re rolling and they’re laughing at race walkers. Fighting discrimination at the beginning of my career was difficult, but now I pay no more attention to these people because I have dreams to achieve and like any dream to achieve we will always have obstacles. If for them it’s easy… they’re professional athletes!
DC: If you could ride any animal into battle, what would it be?
HG: I think a unicorn, because I like horses and unicorns.
Special thanks to Hiago Garcia for taking the time to answer some questions we had about his sport. Best of luck in your feature races, Hiago!