María Pérez walked a total of 55 kilometers at last week’s World Athletics Championships of race walking and earned two gold medals along the way.
After finishing first in the 20K race walk, Spain native Pérez — who is LGBTQ and married to a musician — made it a golden double by winning the 35K event and setting an event record time of 2:38:40 to put her stamp on the proceedings.
She also won the 35K race with style, taking the lead at the 20K mark and gradually widening her lead over former champion Kimberly Garcia. By the time Pérez neared the finish line, her margin of victory was so large that she mistakenly began celebrating early when someone handed her a Spanish flag while she still had one lap to go.
At that point, her lead over Garcia was big enough that the mishap was nothing more than a spoiler alert.
Making Pérez’s victory even more impressive, she revealed afterward that she was walking hurt after winning the 20K championship earlier.
“I had a problem with my hamstring after the 20 km and I was still considering whether to start at the 35 km but I managed to get through,” she said. “I felt confident about my technique today and wanted to maintain a normal rhythm throughout the race and not to damage my hamstring any more, so I really did the last four to five kilometers easy.”
It says something about Pérez’s abilities that she managed to set a new record while easing up on the throttle down the stretch.
That makes it especially meaningful that Pérez’s incredible performance took place at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, home of anti-LGBTQ strongman Viktor Orbán. It’s extra special when our community can dominate in his back yard.
Her golden double capped off an incredible year for Pérez, who also broke a 35K race walk world record at May’s European Athletic Championships with a time of 2:37:15.
Imagine what she can do at the 2024 World Championships if she walks on two healthy legs.