U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Nunn, a member of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, will compete in the race walking event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
As a participant of the Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), Nunn is based at Ft. Carson, CO. The WCAP has supported soldier athletes in national and international competitions, including the Olympics, since its inception in 1997. He lives with his family in Bonsall, CA, where he is a member of the Fallbrook Fifth Ward in the Vista California Stake.
Nunn qualified for the London games and was named Athlete of the Week by USA Track & Field when he won the Men’s 50 km Race Walk in Santee, Calif., on Jan. 22. This is the second time Nunn has qualified for the Olympic race walking event — he came in 26th out of 48 in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. However, he didn’t qualify in 2008. In an article in USA Track & Field Nunn explained:
You know it has been a long road to get back. I didn’t make the team in ‘08 and it was a hard push. My daughter was 6-months-old when I went in ’04, and I really wanted to give her a chance to come and see it again. It is a dream come true to make it again, and to know she can experience that and have it in her mind for the rest of her life to go and see me compete in the Olympics.
Race walking differs from running—as one foot hits the ground, the knee above it must be straight. It has been an Olympic sport since 1904 and is gaining in popularity. The races are 20 kilometers (about 12.4 miles) and 50 kilometers (about 31 miles).
Nunn was born in Durango, CO, but moved to Indiana, where he became an Eagle Scout when he was 13 years old. Members of his family participated in the sport, but he was not a fan. However, that changed after scouts from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside spotted him at a Foot Locker Cross Country Regional when he was a student at Harrison High School in Evansville, IN. He had never competed as a race walker, but Parkside offered him a full-ride scholarship for race walking.
He attended the university for one year and then served a two-year Mormon mission to Las Vegas for the LDS Church. According to an article in the Deseret News, he and his companion awoke early and ran at a nearby track with the encouragement of his mission president.
When he returned from his mission, Jeff Salvage, the author of two books about race walking, became his trainer in New Jersey. He became a member of the Pan American Cup race walking team (2001), World Cup race walking team (2002), and 2005 IAAF World Championship team. His best walking times are 5:49 for the 1-mile, 19:26 for the 5 km, 41:15 for the 10 km, 1:22:31 for the 20 km, and 4:04:41 for the 50 km.
After the London games Nunn hopes to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.