AT EVERY Olympic Games over the last three decades, race walker Jesus Angel Garcia Bragado has represented Spain, hip-wiggling over 50kms while never breaking into a run.
But on Friday, at the grand old age of 51 years old, after finishing 35th in the 50km race walk in Sapporo, he admitted it would be his last.
“You have to know when it is time to retire,” he said after the race adding that he was hugely grateful to the Spanish Federation for support during his long career.
Although the Madrid born athlete has never brought home an Olympic medal despite competing in every Games since his debut in Barcelona ’92, he has still made history by become the first track and field athlete to compete in eight in a sporting career that spans 30 years.
His sport was the 50km race walk, a gruelling competition that takes more than four hours to complete and covers a distance that is 8 kilometres further than a marathon during which one foot must always be in contact with the ground.
But it is also a race that has fallen out of fashion, and Garcia Bragado’s final race will coincidentally be the last time the event is included as an Olympic sport.
The all-male race has been dropped from the lineup in the 2024 Paris Games to be replaced by a mixed walk event of a shorter distance.
Despite never reaching the Olympic podium, Garcia Bragado was the 50km race walk world champion in 1993 and won three world silver medals in 1997, 2001 and 2009. He did finish fourth in Beijing 2008 and fifth in Sydney 2004.
His Olympic record in terms of number of appearances is broken only by those competing in disciplines which are known for allowing athletes more longevity at the elite level.
Ian Millar, a Canadian equestrian holds the record for competing in the most Olympic games, after taking part in ten. While five athletes achieved nine appearances but in the disciplines of Equestrian, Shooting and Sailing.
Eight other athletes have also competed in eight games including in the fields of Canoeing, Rowing, Gymnastics, Fencing and Ski Jumping but Garcia Bragado becomes the first to do so in the discipline of Athletics.