April 11, 2016

MONACO (AP) The last male-only event in track and field is opening up to women.

The IAAF said Monday that female athletes will be allowed to compete for the first time in 50-kilometer race walk events, a decision that followed a petition by American race walker Erin Taylor-Talcott.

''This such a huge and amazing step for women's rights and for female race walkers all over the world,'' she said.

The IAAF's ruling council amended its rules to allow women to compete along with men in the 50K at the World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome from May 7-8. The results will count equally with the men's toward the overall team result.

The decision covers participation of female athletes in future mixed races until the IAAF introduces a separate 50K for women.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said the change ''marks one of the last important steps to ensure equal competition opportunities for male and female athletes at IAAF competitions.''

In recent decades, the IAAF has introduced pole vault and hammer throw competitions for women.

''The 50K race walk until now remained the last event solely open to men,'' Coe said.

The 20K race walk became an Olympic event for women in 1992. The IAAF world championships and the Olympics currently feature 20K walks for men and women, and 50K for men.

The new change will not apply to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, according to IAAF spokesman Chris Turner.

''Olympics are not organized by the IAAF, so this amendment is currently only for IAAF champs,'' Turner said in an email.

Taylor-Talcott reached the qualifying time for the 50K in 2011 but was initially denied entry to the U.S. Olympic trials. She was eventually allowed to compete as a ''guest'' as long as she agreed not to compete in the men's event at the 2012 London Olympics.

In 2014, Taylor-Talcott reached a settlement with USA Track and Field on equal prize money for women at USATF's 50K events.

She and fellow American Susan Randall competed in the first international 50K walk for women in Chile last May. Taylor-Talcott then petitioned the IAAF to allow women to compete in its events.

''I'm feeling so many emotions right now, but the main one is excitement to get out on the course ready to race my hardest against the best in the world,'' Taylor-Talcott said in a statement issued by U.S. law firm Winston & Strawn.

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