TBEN is deeply saddened to learn that Mexican Olympic 20km walking champion and 1983 world champion Ernesto Canto died on Friday (20) at the age of 61 from pancreatic and cancer cancer. liver.
Canto is one of only three Mexican athletes to win an Olympic gold medal and was one of the defining figures of the golden age of walking in Mexico.
Born in Mexico City in October 1959, Canto started walking at a relatively young age and won his first U18 national title at age 13. He went on to win various continental and regional titles as a U18 and U20 athlete.
His first big senior success came in 1981 at the World Race Walking Cup in Valencia where he triumphed in 1:23:52 to beat Olympic bronze medalist Roland Wieser of East Germany. Canto’s compatriot, Raul Gonzalez, achieved a Mexican double by winning the 50 km.
Canto became the first world champion in the 20 km walk in Helsinki in 1983. The leading peloton had been reduced from eight to four men with three kilometers to go. Canto fought with Czech walker Jozef Pribilinec in the finals and managed to break free before entering the stadium, eventually winning by 10 seconds in 1:20:49.
Barely 17 days after the World Championships, Canto won the Pan American Games title in Caracas. And a month later, he finished second in the World Race Walking Cup in 1:19:41, rising to third in the world all-time at this point.
At the 1984 Softeland Grand Prix in Fana, Canto set a world track record for the 20,000m walk. So far no one had beaten 1:20 for the discipline but Canto clocked a time of 1:18:40 – 50 seconds faster than the 20km road world record at that time – and has gained by two minutes. The record lasted eight years.
At the time of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Canto was one of the medal favorites. Defending champion Maurizio Damilano increased the pace for the first 15 kilometers, but Canto was once again too strong in the final five kilometers. Carried by the large Mexican population of Los Angeles, Canto led a Mexican brace from Gonzalez, winning in 1:23:13.
Eight days later, Gonzalez won the Olympic 50km title while Canto placed 10th.
Canto’s last world championship medal came at the 1987 World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis, where he finished third in the 5,000m. A month later, he set a life 20km record of 1:19:37 altitude at Xalapa to solidify his No. 3 position on the all-time world list.
At the World Championships in Rome later that year, however, Canto was disqualified in the second half of the race, having competed with the leaders. He suffered a similar fate at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Canto’s last great triumphs came in 1990, winning the Goodwill Games title in Seattle and the Pan-American Race Walking Cup title at home in Xalapa. He then competed in a third edition of the Olympics, placing 29th in the 20km in Barcelona in 1992.