ISU student aiming for 2024 Olympics in racewalking category - East Idaho News

ISU student aiming for 2024 Olympics in racewalking category

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POCATELLO — Chris Zuck grew up dreaming of running cross country in the Olympics. Then, in 2021, while watching the Olympics, he saw a new sport and hatched a new dream.

The Ammon-born Idaho State University freshman, while watching the Tokyo Olympics with his mother, saw racewalking and his interest was piqued.

“I was telling my mom, ‘I bet I could do that,'” he told

The problem was, Zuck knew nothing about the sport. So he did some research and found around 15 people associated with it. He sent each of them emails, he called them and left voicemails, all asking for any guidance they can offer.

Quickly, Zuck said, he got a response from Jeff Salvage — the president of U.S racewalking. Salvage sent Zuck videos to watch and literature to read, explaining the rules and techniques of the sports.

Three weeks later, Zuck sent Salvage a video of his own racewalking technique and Salvage responded with instruction on how he could improve. Since, Zuck has jumped headlong into training for a potential run at the Olympic racewalking team.

“That was, kinda, how my journey started,” he said. “I would watch videos and read books, then send him videos of me walking and he would tell me what I should change.”

Race walker Chris Zuck at Nationals
Courtesy Chris Zuck

After just over a year of training, getting instruction largely through shared videos and written communications with his now-coach Salvage, Zuck recently attended the race-walking national championship in San Diego.

As he explained, the trip was primarily for exposure.

“(Salvage) really wanted to see me in an official race,” Zuck said. “Before this race, I was doing little 5Ks, fun runs, and stuff, but they weren’t judged so there was no way to tell if I was truly within the rules.”

What separates running from racewalking, Zuck said, boils down to two primary rules — one foot must be on the ground at all times, and one of the racer’s knees must be straight at all times. During a judged race, Zuck continued, racers are allowed three faults. They are disqualified on the fourth violation of the rules.

The nationals, Zuck said, were judged by some of the same judges who worked the Tokyo and Rio Olympics.

“(Salvage) wanted to see if my times were true while keeping the legality of the sport,” he said.

Though the Olympics feature two distances — 50- and 20-kilometer races — Salvage instructed Zuck to compete in the 10-kilometer race. The goal, again, was to show Salvage he could record, at worst, a nine-minute mile while maintaining legal form.

Zuck’s nerves spiked when he realized he would be racing against the third-place finisher at the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials. But, he finished the race — clocking an average of around eight minutes per mile, good enough to finish second behind the previous Olympic contender.

After the race, Zuck said he received a very positive review from Salvage and Tim Seamen — the coach of the U.S. Olympic racewalking team.

He and Salvage discussed a potential timeline for the 2024 Olympic trials — in about 18 months.

“He said that the course I’m at, there is a possibility, but my training might take a little bit longer, and I might have to target the (2028) Olympics,” Zuch said of Salvage. “I am going to have to be part of a lot more races, and get a lot more exposure. This was, basically, to see if I have what it takes.”

While the goal is to make the 2028 Olympics — in Los Angeles — Zuck said that he intends to qualify for the 2024 games in France.

He will maintain his current training program — focused on endurance and maintaining proper form. And he will continue to do so, walking laps around Pocatello landmarks between classes at ISU, where he is also focused on earning a degree in biochemistry.