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LDS soldier qualifies for the 2012 Olympics

BONSALL, Calif. — U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Nunn, a member of the LDS Church, has qualified to compete in the race walking event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Nunn, based out of Ft. Carson, Colo., is part of the Army World Class Athlete Program, which supports soldier athletes in national and international competitions. Since its inception in 1997, the WCAP has been a part of the Olympics.

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, one of the most beautiful countries Nunn has seen, he said.

Race walking has been in the Olympics since 1904. It requires competitors to have one foot on the ground at all times. As one foot hits the ground, the knee above it must be straight. The races are long — one event is 20 kilometers (about 12.4 miles) and the other is 50 kilometers (about 31 miles).

Nunn qualified for the London games by winning the 50 km Race Walk Olympic Trials in Santee, Calif., on Jan. 22. Nunn and Tim Seaman of San Diego were in a tight race at the 35 km mark, where Nunn took the lead until the 45 km mark. With only 1.5 km left, Nunn sped up and won the race with a time of 4:04:41. It beat the 4:05 time Nunn had written on his mirror as a goal.

Nunn attended the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on a full ride scholarship for race walking. In November 1997, he left for a two-year mission to Las Vegas for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While serving and with encouragement from his mission president, he and his companion woke up early and exercised by running around a nearby track.

After serving a Mormon mission, Nunn trained in New Jersey with Jeff Salvage, author of two books about race walking. Nunn’s dedication to race walking led to numerous accomplishments in the sport, including several years as a member of the Pan American Cup race walking team (since 2001), World Cup race walking team (since 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.

Nunn gives credit to his coach, Enrique Pena, for sticking with him through good and bad times. Nunn would like to go to dental school, but first he plans to compete in the London games and try for a spot in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Nunn and his daughter, Ella, live in Bonsall, where they are members of the Fallbrook Fifth Ward in the Vista California Stake.

Elaine Cole is an assistant director of public affairs/media representative for the Fallbrook area in Southern California.

Mormon Times is looking for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are competing in the 2012 Olympics in London. Please email with the athlete's name, sport and country they are representing.