20-KILOMETER RACE WALK
BY ELLIOTT DENMAN
DOHA, QATAR - Maria Michta-Coffey is a brilliant young woman.
The 33-year-old Long Islander is a post-doctoral student in microbiology sciences at Touro College after graduation as valedictorian at Long Island University's CW Post College. She'll be happy to regale you about such matters as '"Hepatitis C virus cell entry determinants of occludin,"
her Ph.D. thesis subject.
A 22nd-placer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and an inductee into her Suffolk County (New York) Sports Hall of Fame, she is also the greatest American female racewalker of this century with more USATF National titles to her credit than any contemporary. Who knew that when she won the USATF 40-kilometer title all those years ago, in a race hosted by Shore AC at Ocean Township's Joe Palaia Park in New Jersey, that the list would grow and grow, and grow and grow.
Well, she's still doing exemplary things.
Perfect example; the women's 20K racewalk final here in Doha, at the 17th World Championships of Track and Field.
Understand that even in the most ideal circumstances, she'd never have been a candidate to walk off with a medal.
Team USA's racewalkers, male and female, have a long-long way to go before catching up to the rest of the world - specially so in places like China, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Sweden, France, Japan, Colombia and Australia, where they give their racewalkers worlds of more support and encouragement.
But 'MMC' was out there - ''carrying the flag'' for her nation and doing all she could to keep America at least in the racewalking mix.
In perhaps the weirdest conditions ever for a 20K race of this magnitude - the event went off at a minute before midnight Sunday - and finished in the wee-small second hour of Tuesday - this lone American entry placed a courageous 35th place with a clocking of 1;46;02.
Scene of all this was the Corniche Park area - where all the road events, marathon runs as well as racewalks - are booked for the middle-of-the-night in the attempt to beat the heat and the steam of this Persian Gulf nation.
These attempts have all been in vain. The heat and the steam continue proving unbeatable. Winning times in these road events continue setting 'slowest ever' records for the World Championships.
Three outstanding athletes from China - Hong Liu (1;32;53), Shenjie Gieyang (1;33;10) and Liujing Yang (1;33;17) prevailed over
Brazil's Erica Rocha De Sena (1;33;36) to sweep all the medals.
Somehow, someway, 39 of the 45 original starters managed to finish this thing.
Just a few months ago, "MMC' would have been the longest of long shots just to be here.
You see, Maria and husband Joe Coffey welcomed daughter Llliiana to the world this spring.
On minimum post-partum training time, she still managed to get back into World Championships-level form.
A 2018 pre-Lilliana qualifying time proved her ticket to Doha.
"The female body is an amazing thing,'' she told you after crossing the finish line.
Anyone beyond the 'birds and the bees' stage of his/her own educational progress, should, of course, be aware of all these
Two-time 20K Olympian ''MMC' - and yes, hoping to make it three by Tokyo time - provided another reminder here - 'just in case.''