Rohl, Chen and Lawrence qualify for Olympic 20K race walk

Michelle Rohl.  Credit: Tim de Frisco/Allsport
Three veteran Olympians have earned the opportunity to represent the United States in a new Olympic event: the womens 20K race walk.

The three are Michelle Rohl, who competed in the 10K race walk in Barcelona in 92 and in Atlanta in 96, Debbi Lawrence, who did the same, and Yueling Chen, a recently naturalized American who won the 10K race walk gold medal for China in 92.

Rohl, 34, of Wisconsin, won the race in 1:32:39. Chen, 27, originally of Shen Yang, Manchuria, placed second in 1:33:40. Lawrence, 38, also of Wisconsin, captured the third qualifying spot with a time of 1:33:48.

Rohl and Chen waged a close battle for the lead through the first portion of the race, but by the halfway mark Rohl had built a commanding 33-second lead. She was able to nearly double her advantage in the latter half of the race.

Because the event is so new, the three women are somewhat uncertain about what their expectations should be in Sydney.Rohl, who placed 20th in Barcelona and 14th in Atlanta, says she would like to place among the top 10 in Sydney, but qualifies this statement by adding that she has no idea how strong the competition will be. Rohl holds the American record of 1:31:51 for the distance.

Chen became a United States citizen just in time to represent her new country in Sydney. She received her citizenship on April 1.

The women's Olympic 20K race walk will take place Sept. 25 in Sydney.


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