With A Little Support
LONDON — Maria Michta can safely return to her doctoral studies in microbiology.
One job well done — her personal record-shattering performance in the Olympic 20K racewalk — she can relax a bit and get on with the whole business of dealing with the real world.
Here’s a young lady (out of Long Island’s Sachem High School and C.W. Post College) with her head obviously and properly affixed.
She’s been a No. 1 person for most of her 26 years. As in:
• No. 1 student at C.W. Post and Valedictorian of the Class of 2008.
• No. 1 finisher at the USA Olympic Trials 20K (fighting off another determined MM athlete, Miranda Melville) and thus the No. 1 (and only) USA 20K entry in London (as a “B” qualifier, meaning a Trials triumph was the one and only way to get here).
• No. 1 finisher all-time for USA in the 20K at the Games, with her 1:32:27 performance late Saturday afternoon that bested New Hampshirite Joanne Dow’s 2008 1:34:15 at Beijing.
So now she can safely return to Manhattan’s Mount Sinai College of Medicine and proceed, with all required haste, the job of fighting the Hepatitis-B virus and all the nastiness it inflicts on humankind.
Maria Michta fought it out with the best women walkers on earth Saturday and did a heck of a job.
Her PR 1:32:27 walk was good for 29th place in a starting field of 61 and her 10K midway split of 46:02 was a PR, too.
As the announcing team kept reminding, the event was staged in “the most majestic setting in the history of this sport.”
The route was a 2K loop (designed, engineered and fine-tuned by Port Washington’s David Katz) on The Mall in Green Park, with each loop taking a twist around the Queen Victoria statue just beyond the gates of Buckingham Palace, here the changing of the guard is one of the world’s most renowned tourist sites.
At least 10,000 Olympic fans cheered them on.
Michta showed remarkable consistency in hot, sunny conditions, reeling off her 10 laps in 9:17, 9:10, 9:04, 9:11, 9:12, 9:12, 9:20, 9:26, 9:25 and speeding home in a 9:02.
She was totally delighted by it all.
“I walked the fastest 20K of my life in the biggest race of my life.”
Having a big rooting section here “across the pond” was a big morale-booster, too. “I had my whole family here,” she said. “ My mom, my dad, my sister, my brother, my fiancé, his sister and his parents.”
Many of the walkers who finished ahead of her are full-time athletes, fully supported by their national federations or the corporate-sponsor clubs who put big stock In walking medals — which obviously weigh as heavily as any others in the final counts.
And she was ahead of many who are full-time athletes, too.
Soon, Maria Michta will go back to being a full-time microbiologist with the satisfaction of knowing she can compete with the planet’s best. OK, not beat people like Elena Lashmanova, Olga Kaniskina and Shenjie Qieyang. But, yes, compete with them.
Up front, the medals went to Russians Lashmanova (in the world and Olympic record time of 1:25:02) and Kaniskina (1:25:09) and China’s Qieyang (1:25:16).
This looked like a walkaway for much of the 20K distance, with Kaniskina, the defending Olympic champion intent on becoming the first-ever Olympic 20K repeater, building what seemed to be an ever-widening lead.
But, lo and behold, the 27-year-old Kaniskina began wilting some and the 20-year-old, baby-faced Lashmanova began coming on like a Russian version of Gangbusters.
With an 8:07 last lap, the 20-year-old blazed up “the golden carpet” placed in the middle of the road as the direct path to the finish line and claimed the gold by exactly seven seconds.
Maria Michta was 28 places and 7:25 down the roadway when Lashmanova crossed the line.
“This is difficult for me to deal with,” said Kaniskina, the deposed titlist.
“I would never imagined something like this,” said Lashmanova, the great young champion.
“I had a dream race,” Maria Michta reminded us all.
Perspective, of course is everything. In life and in the Olympic Games.