The long wait is finally over for Long Island’s Maria Michta-Coffey. After nearly two weeks in Rio, the 30-year-old Nesconset native will compete in the 20-kilometer race walk Friday afternoon.
After arriving in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 4 and participating in the Opening Ceremonies the following night, Michta-Coffey spent part of her first week watching gymnastics, boxing and diving in person. “Watching our final five [gymnasts] bring home another team gold was amazing,” she told Newsday in an email Wednesday.
Michta-Coffey said the Opening Ceremonies have been the highlight of her Olympics, but she hopes that will change once she hits the track Friday. Despite the temptation to attend as many events as possible, training has been her top priority.
“Training has gone exceptionally well,” said Michta-Coffey, who holds six United States race walking records. “My last few workouts both in the States and down here indicate that I’m in top shape . . . I have had the ability to train on a standard 400 track at the Escola Naval Base, a 3k loop at a park near the naval base, and loop within the [Olympic] village itself for shorter days.”
Michta-Coffey did most of her hard training on Long Island. Last week she walked 93 kilometers, short of her usual 120- to 140-kilometer per week pace, allowing her body to feel fresh for Friday’s 12 1⁄2-mile race.
She said the first week in Brazil was much cooler than she expected, but forecasts for Friday afternoon called for 82-degree temperatures, with a healthy dose of sun by race time. “I’m very glad I got in solid heat training back home.”
This is Michta-Coffey’s second Olympics. She placed 28th (upgraded from 29th because of the recent Russian doping scandal) in the race walk at the 2012 London Games.
Before leaving for Brazil, Michta-Coffey said she would be “really happy’’ with a top 25 finish and “ecstatic’’ with a top 20 finish. It appears those goals have not wavered.
“The goal is still to give it my everything,” she said. “The forecast is calling for a hot day, so time goals become irrelevant. I want to race against my competitors to the best of my ability. And boy, am I ready!”
The 2004 Sachem graduate, who lives in Farmingville, placed 20th at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, the highest international finish of her career.
Michta-Coffey is staying in the Olympic Village and, aside from the 45- to 90-minute commute to some of the country’s training facilities, she has no major complaints.
“It’s like living in a modest college dorm room back in the States,” she said. “You’ve probably heard horror stories about the living conditions, but those issues seem to have been ironed out in the first few days before the majority of athletes arrived.
“The local people here have been very accommodating and helpful. Even when they don’t speak English, they go out of their way to help.”