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By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The first athletics Olympic test event took place this Sunday, February 28th. Under the blazing Brazilian sun athletes sweated it out in the 2016 Brazil Race Walk Cup at the Pontal, west of Barra da Tijuca. The competition was part of the South American Championships which began on Saturday.

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Claudio Flores from Ecuador won the 50KM walk despite stifling heat in Rio on Sunday, photo by Alexandre Vidal/Rio 2016.

Many of the walkers failed to finish as they were floored by the heat. Despite starting the 50km marathon race at 6.30 AM only seven of the eighteen competitors made it across the finish line as they battled against thirty degree temperatures.

The course is a 2KM new asphalt track opposite Pontal, an island connected to the shore by a thin bar of sand at low tide. It was immortalized by Brazilian singer Tim Maia in his song, “Leme to Pontal”. The race begins and ends at a square named after him.

“The course, which has already been approved by the International Association of Athletics Federations, had to be tested by athletes, and they said it was excellent and will be fast. Of course we didn’t have great times because of the heat, but those who competed today are all winners. And in terms of the technology and electronic timing, everything worked perfectly,” concluded Martinho Nobre, Rio 2016’s athletics manager.

Ecuador swept the board, coming in first, second and third. Claudio Flores took gold with a time of four hours, 23 minutes and 37 seconds, slower than Olympic qualifying standard which is four hours, six minutes. Brazil entered four athletes, including decorated walker, Cláudio Richardson dos Santos. His teammate Samir Sabadin failed to finish, passing out 41km into the race.

At the Olympic Games there will be men’s and women’s 20km races as well as the 50km one. The temperature is likely to be more reasonable in August and shouldn’t pose a problem to the athletes. As they were this weekend, the races then will be open to the public to watch without tickets.

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